Review: Love Story at the Forum Theatre

Last night saw the opening of the latest musical production by Chester’s own Tip Top theatre company: an adaptation of Erich Segal’s timeless novel Love Story. Set in various locations of New England, USA during the 1960s, Love Story chronicles the first meeting of college students Oliver and Jenny. Born to different worlds with very different ideologies, this unlikely couple fight for their love amid family pressures and economic struggles, until tragedy cuts their young marriage short.

Love Story was presented with beautiful musical numbers by Tip Top’s live orchestra, a small but mighty collective of talent directed by Tim Jones. We’re introduced to the melodious voice of Dani Frey, who played the role of Jenny with sympathy and a resolute light-heartedness despite the loss of her dreams, and eventually her life. By her side was leading man Rob Lyon in the role of Oliver, a Harvard boy who suffers a fraught and pressured relationship with his high-powered lawyer father. The majority of the tale revolves around the disowned and penniless duo as their feelings about the endurance of their love are explored in song.

Fans of the highly popular 1970 film adaptation will find much of the same exchange of cutting banter, tension and romance between Jenny and Oliver. The cast made an admirable effort with their American accents, and setting and costume all helped to achieve the mid-sixties vibe and the class differences prevalent in the North Eastern USA. The staging and transitions between scenes were noticeably slick, with minimalist set pieces that were thoughtful and well used. Never has a small space full of people looked so dynamic as in the hockey game and wedding scenes, where every member of the ensemble was perfectly placed and giving it their all.

Particular highlights for me included the sudden delight of some superb singing by Laura Roberts, after her stint as Jenny’s cancer physician. Clare Thompson also gave us heartfelt and melodious moments as the apparition of Jenny’s mother, proving that small parts can have a big impact when they’re done just right. Personally, though, the standout turn was given by Bill Robertson in the role of Jenny’s father, Phil. His Piano Song in particular was dynamic and gutsy, breathing energetic life into a humorous and very likable character.

Love Story continues at the Forum Theatre until Saturday October 24th, and it’s well worth a watch for any fan of romantic dramas. This polished and professional production was very enjoyable to watch, and co-directors Peter Swingler and Rhian Underwood deserve to be proud of their creation.

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