Composer: Andrew Lloyd Webber; Libretto: Don Black and Charles Hart. At: Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at No Exit CafÃ©, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. Tickets: 800-595-4849 or www.theo-u.com; $30-$64. Runs through: April 21
When the off-Broadway show Forbidden Broadway spoofed Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1989 musical Aspects of Love, lyricist Gerard Alessandrini wrote a scathing spoof that transformed the show's best-known song, "Love Changes Everything," into "We Sleep With Everyone."
Now that I've finally had a chance to see Aspects of Love thanks to Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's intimate staging at the No Exit CafÃ©, Alessandrini's assessment is accurate. There is plenty of bed-hopping in this self-important musical set largely in France between 1947-64, where practically everything is sung and sprinkled with British expressions in Don Black and Charles Hart's libretto. Webber produces many lush melodies, which ultimately get cannibalized and reprised ad nauseam for the basic recitative or sung dialogue.
The show's sung-through nature makes for very little emotional subtlety and for very simplified characters who all seem to go into seduction mode when given a chance (including a bisexual threesome that comes out of nowhere). Aspects of Love is very much a transitional and derivative work between Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard (there's also a tune that Lloyd Webber recycled from his theme song to the British sitcom Executive Stress).
Yet director Fred Anzevino and his ensemble lavish an inordinate amount of work and passion into the show, even though Aspects of Love is clearly not a musical for the ages. They all do an admirable job, even if the overwrought style and structure of Aspects of Love frequently bursts against the seams of this tiny cabaret dinner theater
Aspects of Love follows Alex (Matthew Keffer), who reflects on his youthful fling with the actress Rose (Kelli Harrington), who later takes up with his English painter uncle George (Sean Thomas), who has an Italian sculptor mistress named Giulietta (Collette Todd). These multiple love triangles get expanded in the second act when Alex becomes the object of affection to his 15-year-old cousin, Jenny (Rochelle Therrien), and when Rose takes on a lover named Hugo (William Lucas).
You do feel for the very vocally skilled ensemble under Jeremy Ramey's fine music direction, even when they become saddled with such unsatisfactory material and lascivious character motivations.
After it flopped on Broadway, Aspects of Love is said to have worked much better as a chamber musical for smaller spaces (a scaled-down tour played Chicago at the former Civic Theatre). But at the No Exit CafÃ©, the size of Aspects of Love often feels too bigparticularly in the big danced production numbers like "Hand Me the Wine and the Dice" or "The Journey of a Lifetime" choreographed by James Beaudry.
At the very least, Theo Ubique's Aspects of Love provides a way for die-hard Webber fans work to see one of his lesser-known shows performed very well.numbers go on too long ("Texas: Land of God and Carbohydrates") or don't feel properly built up to ("Boners Over Butterflies" as the "you'll do" romantic duet between Whit and Columbus).