Based on David Garnett’s 1955 novel of the same name, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love was first performed in London almost 30 years ago, starring the now-internationally renowned Michael Ball. In 1992, the show arrived at Sydney’s Theatre Royal with a cast including a young Amanda Harrison, making her professional debut.
A quarter of a century later, Aspects of Love is back in Sydney – this time at Hayes Theatre Co – and, according to one of its stars, Grant Smith, may too mark the beginning of big careers in musical theatre for its young stars.
“I have to say it is a joy … coming into a rehearsal room with so many talented young people,” Smith tells Theatre People. “I listen to them, I watch them working, and I think, ‘Wow!’ I know that [some] of these young kids are going to become major stars in the future.
“So, if there’s anything that should bring people along – even if they’re not particularly great Andrew Lloyd Webber fans – I would recommend they come to see these young stars, because they are something special.”
Smith has chalked up a career on stage spanning several decades. It’s a career that’s included appearing in the original West End productions of Sweeney Todd and Barnum, starring as Gus/Growltiger in the Australian premiere of Cats in 1985, and a Helpmann Award-winning performance as The Architect in Opera Australia’s The Eighth Wonder.
Smith describes Aspects of Love as “a strange beast”.
“It’s not the sort of thing that a large company would take on, but then it’s too big a beast for a small company,” he says. “So, it’s a very brave thing for Walk This Way Productions – [co-producers] Andrew J Beavis and Nathan M Wright – to take on such a meaty project in a tiny theatre like the Hayes.”
With music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart, Aspects of Love tells a story that takes place in France and Italy in the 1940s and focuses on three generations of one family.
“It’s a story of love and loss and jealousy; it’s got all the passions that you would expect in an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, but it’s charming,” Smith says. “It’s a bit of a melodrama, but handled in the right way [and] there’s some stunningly beautiful music in it.”
To date, Lloyd Webber’s shows have been performed in 148 countries, received over 300 awards and sold 300 million tickets. In September, the Sydney Opera House’s Joan Sutherland Theatre opened its doors for a sell-out season of Evita, starring Tina Arena; last weekend, the Australian premiere of School of Rock opened to rave reviews in Melbourne; and in London, The Phantom of the Opera is now in its 33rdyear on the West End.
So, what is it about Lloyd Webber’s work that grabs audiences?
“He’s really a latter day Puccini because his themes are very grand, and he has this knack for being able to write signature tunes and themes that run right through his shows,” Smith says. “It’s a clever mechanism because [in] a lot of modern works, the composer writes a beautiful melody but you never hear it again. So, at the end of the show, you walk away and you think, ‘I can’t remember any of the music’.
“With an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, he takes a theme and he repeats it, he gives it to somebody else in a slightly different key, in a different modulation, so he weaves his melodies through the show so by the time you get to the end, you’re very familiar with the music. I think that’s one of the things that makes him popular … If you think of all the great signature songs from his shows, they really have become standards now in the musical repertoire.”
Smith adds: “He does write very good characters; he fleshes his characters out. I think that’s another [reason] people are drawn to his works because when they sit and watch a show, they feel involved with the people on stage.”
Smith is excited for audiences to see the new production of Aspects of Love, a musical not performed professionally in Australia for more than 25 years. Directed by Beavis, it features a 12-piece orchestra and one of the largest casts to date in a Hayes Theatre Co production.
“I’ve been astounded, to be honest,” he says. “You can see that it really is a major West End show scaled down to a tiny theatre. It reminds me of going to those wonderful shops in London that sell you these miniature cardboard cut-outs of great theatre sets … It’s absolutely extraordinary. I have nothing but great admiration for the production team.”
Smith also shares his thoughts on why Sydney audiences will love Aspects of Love in 2018 – and it’s not just about a beautiful score.
“Every audience member is going to find a moment in the show when they think, ‘Yes, I know that, that’s happened to me’,” he says. “Because we’re dealing with human emotions, I think the audience is going to relate to what they see on stage and, apart from that, what they see on stage is going to hold their attention for the whole show and take them on a journey – and I think that’s what theatre’s all about.”
ASPECTS OF LOVE – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point
Season: Playing now until Sunday 30 December, 2018
Times: Tues-Sat 7.30pm, Wed matinee 1pm, Sat matinees 2pm and Sun matinee 3pm
Price: Adults $89, Concession $79, Previews $79
Bookings: hayestheatre.com.au | (02) 8065 7337