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Love Story: The Musical. Union Theatre, SE1

October 10, 2014

(Seen at the Evening performance on 8th October 2014).

The second time I’ve seen the show in a London Fringe theatre inside a year… and I think director Sasha Regan may have created the “definitive” staging, that future productions may be well advised to follow.

Previously, there’s always been an emphasis on ‘sad and romantic story,’ which enthralled the 70s film audience. Regan wisely takes an alternative tack, giving far more weight to the characters, and allowing their emotions to create the tale’s arc.

In this, she received invaluable help from casting director Adam Braham, who assembles a stage full of perfect performers.

For the first time, Jenny (Victoria Serra) and Oliver (David Albury) are played at their “correct” ages. Her in the fullest bloom of youth and hopefulness, him on the cusp of manhood. It’s a magnetic pairing, utterly convincing in their growing emotional intensity.

Serra resists the temptation to copy the spikiness of all previous incarnations in favour of a far sweeter approach, with the barbs as the building blocks of her charm. That she ensnares her Oliver is no surprise at all – frankly, judging by the bar-talk at the interval, if he wasn’t interested, there was an orderly queue of substitutes already being formed…

Luckily, the incredibly gifted Albury is more than man enough for her. Matching his co-star both vocally and in acting ability, his transition from rebellious Jock to fully formed emotionally-aware man is impressive. The final hospital scene is a thrilling emotional climax of his acting skills.

Two surely rising Musical Theatre stars.

Other performances are equally deserving of mention. Most of all, Neil Stewart as Phil Cavilleri. Holding an audience breathless in a solo telling of his pride in his daughter, it’s a simple image that will burn long in memory.

Seamus Newham also manages to give a gruff roundedness to Oliver Barratt III, a father who can’t communicate with his son, but certainly knows how to play to a theatre. As his wife, Deborah Poplett too understands how to convey a small role with maximum impact – a comment equally applicable to ghostly Tanya Truman (Jenny’s Mother) who creates a moving spirit.

In other brief roles, ensemble members Ellie Ann Lowe and Grace Osborn provide beautiful vocal opening and closing eulogies, while Adam Bayjou is the perfect “Hippy Vicar” and convincing Doctor, Nathan Elcox another defeated medic and Norton James a versatile support to the company.

Yes, there are faults, which lie mostly in the construction of the piece itself. The long “black-outs” between some scenes suggest extra work could be added to make it more cinematic. On the plus side, introducing an interval (the show is normally played as a straight 1 hour 45 without a break) allows the audience to re-group and heightens the emotional impact of the second half.

For those seeking a beautifully sung, memorably melodic miniature jewel of a musical, with a cast who will probably remain unequalled by future revivals, this is unmissable.

Until 25th October 2014.


On a personal note, many thanks to Sasha Regan and the team at the Union Theatre for a great evening. I attended with my theatregoing group, who had “bought out” all the tickets for that night. Something I’d now recommend to anyone else who can muster 49 friends to share a show with, for sure!


As this week was a “double post” week, the next blog entry will be on 22nd October 2014.

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