Review: Love Story, book and lyrics by Stephen Clark, music by Howard Goodall, at New Wolsey until Saturday.

It’s what we used to call a two-hankie weepie and eye-dabbing tissues are essential equipment for the premier of this new musical. Nominated for several Oliviers in London, the show gets its first UK non-professional staging at the hands of Gallery Players and it’s an absolute beaut.

This is their third Goodall musical, written from Erich Segal’s award-winning book and film, and the group’s relish for the composer’s work shines through every aspect of Love Story, set in 1960s New York.

The most important requirement for this show is to find a boy and a girl who can persuade us that they are so nuts about one another that they will make extraordinary sacrifices to prove it. And Gallery has found them.

Bronwyn Cooper and Joe Leat capture with delightful confidence the saucy-brittle, funny-sexy passion that causes brilliant musician Jenny Cavilleri to pass up a piano scholarship in Paris and for Oliver Barrett IV to marry her and get cut off without a cent by his rich father.

What is more, they are totally at ease with Goodall’s lovely, though not always easy music and the clever, often touching lyrics. We believe in them and are happily drawn into their little struggle for life as Jenny works as a teacher to fund her hubby through law college.

They live on pasta and there’s a great number with that name they sing as they cook their meal on hotplates and bubbling saucepans on stage. And it is the staging that is one of the special pleasures of the show.

The ensemble back the singing, play parts and they also move the furniture and props but it is all carefully, lyrically choreographed and it sweeps the story along at the rate of knots to its inevitable, well-known conclusion. And the death scene is a tissue-damping delight of sadness. It is, however, also a show with plenty of laughs.

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Jenny’s dead mother (Linda Wooldridge) ghosts her way through the piece and tells her daughter that dying is simple, like falling over a cliff in slow motion, and James Hayward is variously funny and moving as Jenny’s father. Martin Leigh and Helen Wheatley weight in nicely as Oliver’s wealthy mum and dad, but this is very much a team effort.

The show opens and closes with What Can You Say, a touching number that tells us all about Jenny; and among the other lovely songs are Nocturnes, Everything We Know and Summer’s Day.

David Henshall.

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