The U.S. premiere of Love Story, the musical based on Erich Segal’s 1970 novel and film that premiered at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2010 before an Olivier-nominated West End limited run, has opened at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre to mixed and negative-leaning reviews. The creative team includes Stephen Clark (book, lyrics), Howard Goodall (addl. lyrics, music), Annabel Bolton (direction), Douglass G. Lutz (music direction), Peter McKintosh (sets), Shon Causer (lights), Colleen Grady (costumes), and Will Pickens (sound). The cast includes Charles Pistone (Phil Cavilleri), Will Reynolds (Oliver Barrett IV), Alexandra Silber (Jenny Cavilleri), Paul L. Nolan (Oliver Barrett III), and Jane Labanz (Alison).
David Anthony Fox (City Paper): There are many things to admire in the Walnut’s Love Story, among them the elegant direction (by Annabel Bolton) and the design. … Stephen Clark’s adaptation of the book captures Segal’s world faithfully, and, more impressively, theatricalizes it with brio. The best moments in Love Story … make us fall in love with Jenny. This is immeasurably easier because Alexandra Silber is excellent as Jenny. … If only it were all this good. … Howard Goodall’s music is a swamp of generic pop melodies, repeated frequently yet completely unmemorable. The lyrics are equally colorless. At no point does the score tap the vast well of the music of the era in which it’s set. And though both Silber and Reynolds have singing chops, the score seems awkwardly written for them – too high for him; across the break for her. … Fans of Segal’s book may find a lot to like in the Walnut’s snazzy production. But you probably won’t leave humming the tunes. And if you do, you’ll wish you weren’t.
Rebecca Goering (Broadway World): The Walnut Street Theatre’s production is charming while also heartbreaking. The extremely emotional story sweeps you through two romance-filled hours, all hinging on the grandiose and authentic chemistry between the two leads: Will Reynolds as Oliver and Alexandra Silber as Jenny. … The production elements of this show were almost perfect. The set was ideal and stylishly incorporated the orchestra onstage. The newlyweds’ dinner scene was a particular favorite that was delightfully staged. The lighting warmly showcased the lovers and their journey. … Overall, the Walnut Street Theatre’s Love Story is a romance that will transport you out of your seat and into the heart of Oliver and Jenny’s amorous world.
Aaron Mettey (Philly Post): Silber and Reynolds give fine performances. With strong voices and resolute acting, they are engaging to watch. … The script by Stephen Clark … mechanically tugs at the audience’s heart and recreates the sob-inducing finale. The songs from award-winning composer Howard Goodall, with lyrics from Clark, contain memorable and hummable melodies, but stunt the scenes. Except for a few numbers – the wonderful “Pasta” which … is one of the few gleeful moments of levity in the show – most are disconnected from the scene. … The musical is out of date and overly sentimental. But for many, that may be the best selling point.
Jennifer Perry (DC Metro): 3-1/2 out of 5 stars. It’s a solid production due to some fine musicianship, stellar production values, and some good acting moments. … Stephen Clark’s book and lyrics (with additional lyrics from Howard Goodall) are very sappy and some of the rhyming lyrics are more than groan-worthy. The best example of this is the entirely too long and repetitive “Pasta” song. … However, the book and lyrics do capture the overall intimate tone of the story. Howard Goodall’s music is one of the strongest (if not THE strongest) components of this theatrical piece. The quiet and intricate melodies are mostly rapturous. … I’d recommend this production for lovers of new, smaller, contemporary musicals and for those with an affinity for romantic stories.
Howard Shapiro (Philadelphia Inquirer): I now write in defense of beautifully staged, meticulously lighted, handsomely dressed, genuinely acted and shrewdly contrived soppiness. I make no apologies. You will either detest the new musical Love Story … or you’ll give yourself over to stunning manipulation. You may regret it afterward … but while you’re being sucked in you’ll be fully in the moment. … The lovers are the adorable Alexandra Silber and Will Reynolds, who have an intense chemistry, great vocal ranges and pinchable cheeks … and when they’re young marrieds living on pasta – a great scene – the settling-down relief in their singing is palpable. … When you can make it seem genuine even though it’s clearly not, you never do have to say you’re sorry.