Ipswich: Tissues at the ready for Love Story at New Wolsey
If you’ve never seen or read Love Story before take some tissues. There’s no happy ending for lovers Oliver Barrett IV and Jenny Cavilleri; more accurately it’s not a happy beginning, what with their story starting with a funeral.
Told in flashback, the plot is simple. He went to Harvard, she to Radcliffe. He was rich, she was poor. He was sporty, she played music. They fall in love. He lives, she dies.
Ipswich-based Gallery Players have been given the exclusive rights to perform the new musical in the town. It’s the first time it’s been performed anywhere outside the West End and the Chichester Festival where it premiered.
Inspired by Erich Segal’s best-selling novel and the classic movie, the Olivier nominated musical is scored by Emmy and BAFTA award winning composer Howard Goodall with book and lyrics by Stephen Clark.
Director Steve Wooldridge fell in love with the show after seeing it at London’s Duchess Theatre. No stranger to Goodall’s work, he was put in touch with the production company by a friend.
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“We started negotiating and eventually I think I harassed them so much that they said ‘oh okay then’ and gave me exclusive rights which is fabulous,” he laughs. “It’s a huge deal; we’ve had interest from all over the country with people saying ‘how did you get the rights?’ Eventually it’ll be made available for amateurs but not for a few months.
“We learned the other day there is a production literally just been cast to open on Broadway so it’s Ipswich before Broadway.”
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It may have wonderful music, witty dialogue and an amazing cast; but isn’t staging a relatively unknown musical a bit of a risk in the current climate?
“Anything is always a risk, I’m sure people who know the film, who’ve read the book, will come and will love it. Part of what Gallery has always done is to take risks and to do things other people haven’t done before…. besides, everybody loves a love story.”
Playing Jenny is Bronwyn Cooper, lead singer of award-winning rock band Underline the Sky. Oliver is played by fellow 23-year-old Joe Leat.
“It’s very different [to what she usually does]. The last time I was in a play was when I was 18,” says Bronwyn.
The show’s musical director Richard Healey, who she knew from her time at Amberfield School, suggested she audition.
“I thought ‘oh God okay’. I haven’t sung like that in a while because this is completely different to singing with Underline the Sky, a completely different technique.
“When we first started doing it I was like ‘wow this is hard work’. I didn’t know I could sing like this anymore. But it was really something new, a challenge.”
It’s a very intense role too. Again very different to the short comedy roles she was used to when performing on stage as a teenager.
“When we did the audition pieces they were quite light-hearted and it was kind of like when they first meet, that banter between them, that flirtation. The second half of the play is very emotional but I’ve got someone great to act against in Joe.”
Dead mum’s spirit, dying daughter and buckets full of tears aside, Joe, who starred in the Gallery Players’ production of Our House last year, says Love Story isn’t all doom and gloom; far from it.
“We don’t want everyone to come out of the New Wolsey and go ‘oh God’… this really hits you emotionally but it’s more a celebration of life; the zest for it Jenny had and the fun that they had together.”
With just a few days left to opening night, all that’s left for Bronwyn and Joe to do is perfect their pasta cooking; but I’ll let you find out more about when you go to see the show at the New Wolsey from July 11-14.
For breaking local, national and international showbiz news follow me on Twitter @whatsonwayne