But what can you say? - those are the first words from the singing cast as they tell you about a girl "who learned to run before she could walk," stolen by terminal illness at age 25. (I don't give anything away; it's clear in the first minutes.) What can you say, indeed, except that even goo has different quality levels.
Yes, this comes from the same Love Story as the 1970 hit pulp-romance novel written by the Ivy League classics professor Erich Segal (who, incidentally, gave us the script for the Beatles' Yellow Submarine), the one that traces the ill-fitting romance of a Harvard boy from an elite family and a Radcliffe girl from the struggling classes, the one that spawned the knucklehead quote "Love means never having to say you're sorry," also in the movie that followed, but not, thankfully, in the musical.
The show, with pleasant music by Howard Goodall and book and lyrics Stephen Clark, played London's West End in a limited 10-week run two years ago. The Walnut's production is its American premiere.
It struck me, after I saw Love Story on opening night without a handkerchief but with decent sleeves, that when all the parts fit elegantly live theater can sweep you into just about anything. Douglass G. Lutz's musical direction and Annabel Bolton's kinetic staging are spot-on, and an excellent eight-piece chamber orchestra plays at the rear of the stage, simply set in Peter McKintosh's white room with classic columns.
Shon Causer lights all this — particularly our two lovers — in beautiful hues, sometimes with deep colored effects. The lovers are the adorable Alexandra Silber and Will Reynolds, who have an intense chemistry, great vocal ranges and pinchable cheeks; when they sing about falling in love, you can nearly surf on the waves of self-doubt in their voices, and when they’re young marrieds living on pasta — a great scene — the settling-down relief in their singing is palpable. Charles Pistone is her down-to-earth and loving dad. Paul L. Nolan and Jane Labanz are his ice-cold parents.
In the end, the production and the show, despite the perils, are forceful without being forced. When you can make it seem genuine even though it's clearly not, you never do have to say you're sorry.
Through Oct. 21 at Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut St. Tickets: $10-$95. Information: 215-574-3550 or www.walnutstreettheatre.org.
Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727, firstname.lastname@example.org, or #philastage on Twitter.