by Erich Segal book and lyrics by Stephen Clark music and additional lyrics by Howard Goodall.
Jack Studio Theatre 410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH To 16 November 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm Mat 16 November 3pm.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 0844 870 0887.
Review: William Russell 29 October.
Love is a many splendored thing.
Erich Segal’s best-selling novel about the romance between a feisty girl, who dies of leukaemia, and a Harvard hockey jock who has issues with his wealthy father was turned into a film in 1970, directed by Arthur Hiller, the weepy of the decade. The film critic Alexander Walker memorably dismissed it as, “Camille with bullshit.”
This musical version, however, is arguably less saccharine than the movie, one of those Hollywood fantasies in which the heroine dies without ever actually looking sick except for smudged mascara.
Howard Goodall’s score is melodious and while the hero, Oliver is really irritating, the heroine, Jenny, child of an Italian-American restaurant owner, is not only foul-mouthed and feisty but good fun.
The plot does show its age. In 1970 it was the “right thing” for gifted music student Jenny to abandon her scholarship to study in Paris in favour of marriage to Oliver and taking a job to help keep them while he struggled to make his way as a lawyer. Somehow one suspects it would be the other way round today.
It has been strongly cast – Caroline Keating is wonderfully pugnacious as Jenny, who calls a spade a spade, and Jonny Muir, while perhaps a little slender for a hockey jock, like Keating sings extremely well and does his best to make Oliver less the nerd the script decrees. The gimmick with the show, nicely directed by Joseph C Walsh, is the main prop, a vast piano which comes to pieces to form various bits of furniture and which gets played by the entire cast. It is the source of the musical accompaniment.
In its West End run a few years back there was a small string quartet on stage instead and the action seemed set in Jenny’s music college whereas here it could be the funeral parlour, as the piece opens with her funeral.
There is, therefore, no doubt about what is going to happen but the quarrelsome romance between the socially ill-matched pair is sufficiently entertaining to sustain interest even if at times the often horribly sentimental lyrics stick in the craw.
Jenny Cavilleri: Caroline Keating.
Oliver Barrett IV: Jonny Muir.
Phil Cavilleri: John Sears.
Oliver Barrett 111: Paul Tate.
Alison Barrett: Lesley Moloney.
Jenny’s Mother: Laura Armstrong.
Ensemble Anton Tweedale, Daisy Jorgensen, Ian Southgate, Jennifer Lucy Cook.
Director: Joseph C Walsh.
Piano designer: Darren Beaumont.
Lighting: William Ingham.
Musical Supervisor: Rob Archibald.
Musical Directors: Ian Southgate, Jennifer Lucy Cook.
Associate director: Ben Mills.