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Rarely staged ‘Aspects of Love’ over-the-top and engaging

Giuliett(Colette Todd from left) George Dillingham (Sean Thomas) Rose Vibert (Kelli Harringon) share moment Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre producti'Aspects Love.'

Giulietta (Colette Todd, from left), George Dillingham (Sean Thomas) and Rose Vibert (Kelli Harringon) share a moment in the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre production of "Aspects of Love."

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When: Through April 21

Where: Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, 6970 N. Glenwood

Tickets: $30-$64

Info: (773) 347-1109;

Run time: 2 hours and 40 minutes, with one intermission

Updated: March 13, 2013 10:39AM

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre may very well be the physically smallest Chicago venue producing musicals. But it has an opera house-size mentality that is downright irresistible.

The very notion of tackling “Aspects of Love,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hyperventilating, Puccini-meets-Harlequin romance show that debuted in London in 1989 (and hasn’t been seen here since a national touring edition in 1992), might be daunting to other companies.

But Theo Ubique just plunges in, with fearless director Fred Anzevino bringing together a cast of expert singer-actors, a band that sounds like a symphony orchestra, a couple of memorably feverish dance sequences, a fine array of vintage costumes and more kissing than you will find on any other stage in town.

While Webber appears to have been deadly serious about this show (which features lyrics by Don Black and Charles Hart, and a book by Webber based on the novel by David Garnett, a member of England’s notoriously bohemian Bloomsbury group), I think the best way to approach it is with a winking sense of humor. It is over the top, but all the more fun for that. Bearing hints of both “Gigi” and “A Little Night Music,” it is awash in mid-20th century Eurochic as it moves through an endless series of triangulated, multi-generational “liaisons dangereuses.”

At the center of the story, which unspools over 17 years, is a French actress, Rose Vibert (Kelli Harrington, the luminously beautiful actress who won a Jeff for her role as the mother in Theo Ubique’s “The Light in the Piazza”).

As Rose’s manager exclaims at one point (triggering great laughter from the audience): “Your life is one enormous drama.” And so it is. As she confesses, her motto is “Anything But Lonely.”

Rose is down on her luck as an actress when first spotted by the instantly lovestruck, 17-year-old Brit, Alex Dillingham (Matthew Keffer).

He “rescues” her by carrying her off to the villa in the Pyrenees owned by his wealthy uncle, George (Sean Thomas). A painter and ladies’ man, George is having an affair with a free-thinking Italian sculptor, Giulietta (the strong, intriguing Colette Todd), but it isn’t long before this “man of experience” steps in and leaves his besotted nephew heartbroken. As the song says, “Love Changes Everything.”

Rose is nothing if not capricious, making every man’s life a joy and misery. But she marries George and they have a child, Jenny (Rochelle Therrien, a new star on the Chicago horizon, gifted with beauty, grace, emotional intensity and talent). And by the age of 15, beyond precocious, she is both smitten by Alex and very warily adored by him.

And that is just a hint of the romantic permutations at work here.

It hardly needs saying that Lloyd Webber is a supremely lush melodist and here he does some complex musical experimenting that the cast (which also includes excellent work by Daniel Waters, Stephanie Hansen, Adam Fane, William Lucas and Jamie Finkenthal) finesses.

Applause for James Beaudry’s stunning, fearlessly executed choreography, Jeremy Ramey’s flawless music direction.

Now just pour that Armagnac.

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