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REVIEW ROUNDUP: Howard Goodall and Stephen Clark's Musical Love Story Opens

A scene from Love Story
(Photo courtesy of the company)
Howard Goodall and Stephen Clark's musical adaptation of Love Story has officially opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva Theatre. The production, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and featuring musical staging by Nick Winston, will continue through June 26.

Based on Erich Segal's 1969 novel of the same name, the piece features Emma Williams (Jenny), Michael Xavier (Oliver IV), Peter Polycarpou (Phil), Claire Carrie (Alice), Keiron Crook (Tony/Young Doctor), Rob Edwards (Oliver Barrett III), Lillie Flynn (Ensemble), and Jos Slovick (Ensemble).

The creative team includes Peter McKintosh (production design), Howard Harrison (lighting design), and Matt McKenzie (sound design).

The initial reviews of the production are out with critics praising Goodall's score, Kavanaugh's staging and the central performances from Xavier and Williams in the roles made famous by Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw.

Among the reviews are:

Daily Telegraph
Love Story at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, review
"In many respects the stage show is an improvement on the film. That fine composer Howard Goodall has come up with some strong original melodies to replace the movie's score of souped-up Bach, Mozart and Handel, and the glutinous main theme, which becomes such a recurring irritant in the movie, is played only once, by our heroine, during a college recital."


"But there is nevertheless a lot of gloop to wade through in both book and lyrics, and it is symptomatic of the tasteful timidity of Rachel Kavanaugh's production that during the show's only sex scene, both Jenny and Oliver appear to have reached a state of post-coital bliss despite failing to divest themselves of their underwear."


"If you like the original Love Story, you'll probably love this. If you loathe it, like me, you will just deplore the waste of so much genuine talent."

Evening Standard
Singing the songs of a doomed love affair in Love Story
"I can report with immense pleasure that Howard Goodall (music) and Stephen Clark (book and lyrics) have crafted a terrific new musical."


"And it's not just any songs we're talking about, but plangent, beautifully crafted and sung pieces. The haunting opening number What Can You Say? deserves to become a classic."


"It's incredibly deftly staged by Rachel Kavanaugh, who guides us through the many locations with ease. All this would mean nothing, though, if Emma Williams and Michael Xavier weren't as poignant, tuneful and, vitally, smitten, as they are."

The Stage
Love Story, Minerva Theatre, Chichester
" Love Story has a much more interesting texture and real feeling [...] partly thanks to the searing emotional wash of Goodall's magnificent melodies. He may have lately come into his own as Classic FM's composer-in-residence, but with musicals like The Hired Man and The Dreaming (for the National Youth Music Theatre), he has long been the best hope for original British musicals since Lloyd Webber.

"But while that lord and master of modern musicals won't shut up, Goodall has learnt the added lesson that the music can stop - there are real book scenes here to also propel the drama."


"Both music and book are given equal heft by a company led by Emma Williams, who brings an emotional intelligence to match the lyrical quality of her rapturous singing, and Michael Xavier as her dashing husband."

The Times
Love Story at the Minerva, Chichester
"The first big showstopper (very Rogers and Hammerstein) is a vigorous hymn to pasta, music and shoestring domesticity which, with much nifty pan-work and spoon-waving and final hurrahs from the audience, whirls them through months of marriage....That's one song to take home; the other is a beautiful solo reflection by Jenny -- brassiness dropped -- longing for children to share her love of music: "I'll play them Nocturnes when they think they're alone [...] I'll give them Bach and Nina Simone.""


"Simplicity is beguiling, the diametric opposite of certain vast, expensive, vapid musical dinosaurs roaming the West End. I look forward, very much, to watching it develop."
Love Story (Chichester)
"Howard Goodall's score, well played by a string sextet and piano, is a bit weak on standout tunes, although the opening and closing number, "What Can You Say?" has a haunting melody and there's an exuberant song about pasta which manages to rhyme spaghetti with Donizetti and gnocchi with rocky."


"Rachel Kavanaugh's production is as slick as it can be. Despite some rapid scene changes, the action is telescoped into 105 minutes without an interval, a perfect bite-sized piece of theatre. [...] At a time when the word 'musical' seems synonymous with a montage of rock songs held together by a paper-thin plot, this clever chamber piece deserves a wider hearing."

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