This lackluster and ill-conceived production directed by Kathleen Marshall will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Based on the 1985 play “Peccadillo” by Garson Kanin and adapted by the prolific Joe DiPietro LIVING ON LOVE misses the bulls eye by a long shot, In fact it misses the intended target – comedy – almost completely.
The evening belongs to the two butlers Bruce (Blake Hammond) and Eric (Scott Robertson) in the service of Maestro Vito De Angelis (Douglas Sills) and diva Raquel De Angelis (Renee Fleming – making her Broadway debut). They look alike and share sentences like a long time married couple.
They move the furniture and props about in the gilded penthouse apartment designed by Derek McLane. They sing some sections of arias during the set changes. They play four handed piano during the second act while singing “Makin’ Whoopee!” You just might miss this highlight if you escape after the first act as many in the audience did the night I saw this travesty. They are the stars of this show.
In reality the star should be Ms. Fleming. She tries valiantly. Looking lovely as always. But she is out of her element here. Her acting isn’t exactly believable and her comic timing weak. Her singing glorious. The meaty part of a demanding diva doesn’t fit her as well as the period gloves she wears complementing her 1950’s outfits designed by Michael Krass. She is too sweet. Too nice.
And speaking of costumes – when she is supposed to be Mimi in La Boheme why does she appear looking like Carmen?
The charismatic and dashing Douglas Sills, cavorting in a variety of silk pajamas as Maestro, sports a Sid Caesar-like Italian accent mixing up words (i.e. spooky helper for ghost writer) that wears thin as he attempts to thwart his arch rival Leonard Bernstein and be the charming lothario to his newest collaborator.
Maestro has taken a huge advance ($50,000) that is already gone with the wind to write his memoir with the help of Robert Samson (a miscast Jerry O’Connell) when his wife returns unexpectedly from a failed European tour. Theirs is a one-upmanship relationship and you half expect them to go into “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better.” Diva decides to write her own memoir in retaliation. When Robert is fired and replaced with Iris Peabody (a miscast Anna Chlumsky in a part that Judy Holliday would have been perfect). Diva hires Robert. Both writers move in and you know where all this is going…
Unfortunately it’s down the drain. Diva has a dog that she sometimes carries around. Puccini is its name and Trixie last appeared in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. Give the dog a break and cast her in a hit.
This production reminded me of a summer stock company of yore that did quasi-comedies and brought in a famous star to headline for the week of performances. Perhaps one day Charles Busch will star as Raquel de Angelis in Fort Lauderdale. Now that would be a real diva in action!
NOTE: The curtain call was the funniest sequence in the entire show. But a little too late to save the day.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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