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Review: Living on Love

April 20th, 2015 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

(photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

(photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Living on Love, the old-fashioned screwball farce in which opera star Renée Fleming is making her delightful Broadway debut, may have the musty fragrance of a pre-owned vehicle, but with Fleming at the wheel it manages, despite hitting a few potholes, to arrive at its destination before the transmission expires. Playwright Joe DiPietro has given it a new paint job, added some up-to-date accessories, and even retrofitted its 1980s chassis to resemble a 1950s model.

The play, which debuted last year at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, is an adaptation of Peccadillo, a 1985 flop by the late Garson Kanin, which, despite a cast including Christopher Plummer, Glynis Johns, and Kelly McGillis, died aborning in Fort Lauderdale. The plot remains more or less the same, although the time has been moved to 1957, with mostly new dialogue and references, such as changing the leading man’s jealousy of Zubin Mehta to Leonard Bernstein.

Renée Fleming and Douglas Sills in "Living On Love" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Renée Fleming and Douglas Sills in “Living On Love” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

That lead is Vito De Angelis (Douglas Sills), a famous, dashing, white-haired, chain-smoking, egomaniacal, skirt-chasing conductor of a certain age. Vito’s glamorous, Pomeranian-carrying wife, Raquel De Angelis (Fleming), is a renowned opera star, also of a certain age and, like Vito, unwilling to admit it. He’s Il Maestro, and she’s La Diva. (In Peccadillo, Raquel has retired, so singing isn’t needed; in Living on Love, big pipes are essential, thus Ms. Fleming’s presence.)

Vito, who has the kind of flamboyant Italian accent you hear only on stage, has hired the good-looking young writer Robert Samson (Jerry O’Connell) to ghostwrite his tell-all autobiography, for which he’s received a $50,000 advance from Little, Brown. (In Vito’s broken English, Robert is his “spooky helper.” Mama mia!) Vito thinks his book, moving at snail’s pace because of his uncooperativeness, should exploit his sexual conquests, but the idealistic Jerry, a struggling writer, disagrees; one of the play’s flat tires is the title of Jerry’s unpublished opus, The Great American Novel. Nonetheless, he becomes the seventh ghostwriter Vito fires. This brings Iris Peabody (Anna Chlumsky), a cute, low-ranking editor, to the maestro’s penthouse to demand the advance’s return; no one else has the guts to confront him. Iris (which Vito insists on pronouncing “Irish”—again, Mama mia!) is angling for a promotion.

Blake Hammon (l) and Scott Robertson (r) in "Living On Love" (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Blake Hammon (l) and Scott Robertson (r) in “Living On Love” (photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

La Diva, a spendthrift who has blown the advance, returns from a failed European tour, reducing her to having to play “the provinces,” such as Fort Lauderdale (take that!). She decides to cash in on her own life story by hiring Jerry to ghostwrite it. Vito’s attempted seduction of Iris (to the strains of “Bolero”) is matched by Raquel’s of Jerry (for which she dresses as Mimi in La Bohéme).

Eventually, all these complications are ironed out, supplemented by an amusing romantic resolution involving Vito and Raquel’s plump, aging Tweedledee and Tweedledum-like servants, the perfectly cast Eric (Scott Robertson) and Bruce (Blake Hammond). During the scene shifts these gents rearrange the furniture with choreographic precision, singing lively operatic passages and even breaking into “Making Whoopie.”

Finally, since we’ve heard several times of how a boy violinist kept playing “Always” when Vito first met Raquel in Vienna, a cascade of sentimentality brings the curtain down as snowflakes fall (snow globes play an important part in their relationship) and Il Maestro and La Diva embrace while singing (beautifully) Berlin’s affectionate ballad.

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What a Deal: $19.57 Tickets for “Living on Love”

March 21st, 2015 Comments off
(photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

(photo: Andrew Eccles via The Broadway Blog.)

Though the new screwball Broadway comedy Living on Love begins performances on April Fools’ Day, it’s no joke that the play’s producers are offering $19.57 tickets, including a limited number of orchestra and mezzanine seats, at the first three performances only, April 1 through April 3. The special ticket price is a nod to the setting for the play – the glamorous world of New York City in 1957 when music, culture, & style reigned supreme.

The world’s most beloved opera singer Renée Fleming plays the world’s most beloved opera singer in this hilarious new screwball comedy. When her larger-than-life maestro husband (Sills) becomes enamored with the lovely young lady (Chlumsky) hired to ghostwrite his largely fictional autobiography, the diva retaliates by hiring her own handsome, young scribe (O’Connell) to chronicle her life as an opera star. Sparks fly, silverware is thrown, and romance blossoms in the most unexpected ways.

Four time Grammy Award winner Renée Fleming makes her Broadway debut alongside Tony Award nominee Douglas Sills, 2-time Emmy Award nominee Anna Chlumsky, Jerry O’Connell, Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson in Living on Love by two-time Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro, based on the play Peccadillo by Garson Kanin, and directed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall.

Tickets can now be purchased for these three performances for a limited time only in the following ways:

Please note that $19.57 tickets are subject to availability and apply only specified performance date and times. All sales final (no refund or exchanges) and seating restrictions may apply. Telephone /internet orders subject to Telecharge.com service fees. Limit 4 tickets per order.

Living on Love begins performances on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 and opens on Monday, April 20, 2015 at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street). The production will play an 18-week engagement through Sunday, August 2, 2015. Tickets are now on sale to the general public. For more information, visit www.LivingonLoveBroadway.com