Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical "Aspects of Love" received mixed reviews following weeks of speculation in the British press that the Tony Award-winning composer was losing his Midas touch.
The show is his first musical since the Broadway smash hit "The Phantom of the Opera," which swept the Tony Awards last season. The new show, made up of songs without spoken dialogue, signals a newfound emphasis on emotion over spectacle from the man who brought felines and trains to melodic life in "Cats" and "Starlight Express."Charles Osborne in The Daily Telegraph said the show, which opened Monday at the Prince of Wales Theater, was "certainly Andrew Lloyd Webber's best so far."
However, Milton Shulman in The Standard found the show "a mannered, rather precious operetta . . . singularly lacking in real passion."
At a cost of $3.4 million, the production sold advance tickets worth $8.5 million. It is sold out through 1989.
The musical, set in France and based on a 1955 novel by David Garnett, relates the tangled romantic intrigue among three generations of a family and their entourage. Their "aspects of love" include romance between cousins and lesbianism.
The black-tie premiere was delayed by problems with scenery and length. In addition, James Bond actor Roger Moore, who was to play aging dilettante George Dillingham, left the show during rehearsals. Moore said he felt he was not up to singing the part.
The show marks director Trevor Nunn's first musical since his production of "Chess" bombed on Broadway last year.
Jack Tinker in The Daily Mail applauded Lloyd Webber's daring. "This is uncharted territory on so many fronts," he wrote. But he added that he wondered "whether the public are prepared for such a show of courage or not."
Michael Billington in The Guardian praised the show for exploring "the human heart rather than the possibilities of high-tech scenery." But he called it "a beguiling, fitfully pleasing musical, rather than a perfect one."
Irving Wardle in The Times called it "a well-crafted show," but he faulted the music as "timid and uninteresting."
The cast includes Kevin Colson, who inherited Moore's role, as the wealthy painter, George, and Michael Ball as his nephew, Alex. Both men are romantically linked to a French actress, Rose, performed by American Ann Crumb.
The show's most heavily plugged song, "Love Changes Everything," has received extensive airplay on British radio. It is sung by Ball, who is being hyped as the London theater's new teen hearthrob.