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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Margin Notes: Living on Love

Douglas Sills and Anna Chlumsky as Vito and Iris.
Photo by Joan Marcus.
Living on Love

Seen on: Wednesday, 4/1/15.
My grade: B. Good clean fun.

Plot and Background
Conductor Vito De Angelis and his wife Raquel, a soprano diva, are both facing the risk of waning careers as they age (he seeing the threat of Leonard Bernstein behind every corner; she, the risk of becoming - gasp - a mezzo-soprano). They both embark on competing memoirs ("Call Me Maestro" vs. "Call Me Diva"), with ghost writers trailing desperately behind them, trying to sort through the lies and exaggerations to find some truth. This play is based on Garsin Kanin's 1985 play Peccadillo, and originally premiered at the Williamstown Theater Festival in July 2014.

What I Knew Beforehand
Farcical farce-type shenanigans starring Renee Fleming as an opera star and Douglas Sills, who was in The Scarlet Pimpernel and therefore will always be loved by me.

Thoughts:

Play: You know, for what it was, it was fine. It got laughs in the right places, and didn't annoy too much. Is it a life-changing play, or one that is likely to have much life beyond this cast? No. But it was a fun, and not overlong evening out, fast-paced, and with some pretty good talent onstage. A friend I saw it with was less than impressed but as for me, after sitting through Something Rotten and It Shoulda Been You, neither of which were nearly as funny as they needed to be to make me enjoy myself, this gave me a pretty good time. I have no complaints.

Cast: This wast the first preview, so there's still some timing to be smoothed out, perhaps a bit of tightening to the whole performance. Jerry O'Connell, who was enjoyably dopey in his last Broadway venture, Seminar, is trying too hard here, and nothing (at least as of first preview) is quite working. Renee Fleming was surprisingly good, breaking into song frequently (and always to Pavlovian applause from the audience) and holding her own in dialogue too. Douglas Sills made a wonderful return to the Broadway stage, chewing the scenery with Italian delight (his timing, for the record, was pretty perfect, down to a rather silly bit with trying to hide his gut) and matching Fleming's star presence with his own - you need two actual divas to anchor the antics of this play. But the actual scene stealers here were Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson as Bruce and Eric, the blithe wisecracking butler duo. Their scene changes, peppered with arias and dance flourishes, were a comic highlight.

Design: Derek McLane's given us a nice-looking Manhattan penthouse, with a back wall covered in old photos of its two superstars, and another wall a recessed repository for their vast collection of snow globes. Michael Krass does excellent work with costumes, attiring Raquel in either smart flattering suits, or some of her more flamboyant and drapey opera diva attire; meanwhile, Vito wanders the set in numerous sets of loud satin pajamas (and yes, eventually, tie and tails). Robert and Iris, the two biographers, are mostly kept in more modest attire, though they do get dressed up, like Cinderella for the ball, and look quite lovely when they do.

***

Running: Now playing at Longacre Theatre - Opening April 20, 2015. Closing: August 2, 2015
Category: straight play
Length: 2 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission.

Creative Team

Playwright: Joe DiPietro (based on Garsin Kanin's play Peccadillo)
Director: Kathleen Marshall
Designers: Derek McLane (Set), Michael Krass (Costume), Peter Kaczorowski (Lighting), Scott Lehrer (Sound), Rob Fisher (Music Consulting).
Cast: Renee Fleming, Douglas Sills, Anna Chlumsky, Jerry O'Connell, Blake Hammond, Scott Robertson, Trixie the Dog.

Renee Fleming and Jerry O'Connell as Raquel and Robert. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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