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Love Story, Brockley Jack Studio Theatre – Review

Erich Segal
Book and lyrics by Stephen Clark 
Music and additional lyrics by Howard Goodall 
Directed by Joseph C. Walsh and musical supervision by Rob Archibald 

Pros: Evocative music, beautiful performances, symbolic and ingenious staging–the cast takes turns to play a piano that breaks to form the elements of stage.

Cons: Too much profanity? (not even!).

Our Verdict: Elegant and heart-breaking music, lyrics and performances –this production has it all!

Courtesy of Tony Nandi

‘What can you say about a girl…? ‘

Based on the novel by Erich Segal and subsequent 1970 film, Love Story has been adapted for the stage by Stephen Clark and Howard Goodall. It tells the story of Jenny and Oliver. Jenny Cavilleri is a music major at Radcliffe College, who one night at the library meets Oliver by chance, Oliver Barrett IV to be exact, a cocky millionaire and Harvard preppy (as she likes to call him). Sparks, or more like nuclear bombs, go off between them. Jenny’s profanities and straightforward character win Oliver’s heart. Boy meets girl and the story is set.

I have become increasingly enthusiastic the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre. I’ve grown to expect great things from this inconspicuous south London venue, and yet again it has delivered beautifully!

In the cozy pub theatre, white transparent curtains hang in the background and a grand piano sits on the stage. A pianist walks into the theatre without announcement and the soft chords of the opening song resonate around the audience. The cast comes in and sits on black chairs, singing in mourning about Jenny. There are no plot surprises in the stage version: Jenny has passed away and all her loved ones have gathered to remember her. But then, the girl sitting in front of the piano starts to sing. She is Jenny and she tells what she would do if she were there with them. From the beginning, she is the one giving music to the story. I hesitated as to whether to give this detail away but decided to in order to give an example of the wonderful experience that awaits you.

From then on the set quickly changes in the hands of the cast. The piano breaks into pieces and becomes, to give a couple of examples, the till of the library, the table where Jenny and Oliver sit to meet with his parents. All performers take it in turns to play the piano and provide marvelous supporting vocals. The symbolism of this simple staging device is ingenious: Jenny’s love for the piano is embedded into the core of the play through both the music and set.

Caroline Keating and Jonny Muir as the twosome have great chemistry on stage. Jenny knows and speaks her mind without hesitation and Oliver complements her indomitable character harmoniously; he is a little vulnerable and wounded from his family background. Both receive excellent support from Paul Tate, playing the senior Barrett, and John Sears as Jenny’s father.

Love Story is a classic of 70s cinema. Most of us walk into the theatre with ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’ ringing in our ears. Although those words are never uttered on stage, they hang over the performance and shine through the music and storyline. This play gives the film a new musical-theatre skin, while still remaining true to the original.

Love Story the musical is an elegant, captivating production with beautiful performances. To watch it feels like reuniting with a long-lost friend that spontaneously bursts into song. I don’t want it to stay hidden in south London. Please don’t miss it!

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Love Story runs at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 23rd October to 16th November.
Box office: 0844 8700 887 or book online at www.brockleyjack.co.uk.

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