Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Broadway Theater Review: Living on Love with Renee Fleming

It's Not the Fat Lady, but a Weak Script That Ends This Play
By Lauren Yarger
Opera star Renee Fleming makes her Broadway debut, as, well, an opera diva, in Living on Love, a surprisingly underwritten comedy by Joe DiPietro (Memphis, Nice Work if You Can Get It), loosely based on Peccadillo.

It's hard to believe the DeAngelis couple of Raquel (Fleming) and Vito (Douglas Sills), ever had time to fall in love because they are so self absorbed. "Call me Maestro," Vito insists while his wife thinks she hears birds singing when entering a room where operatic strains are heard on the record player. "Oh, no. That was me," she smiles. A huge collection of snow globes, gifts given on return of a trip, shows just how many separations the couple has endured.

Raquel, just having returned from another tour, suspects her husband might not have remained faithful to his promise to, well, remain faithful. He claims he has been immersed in writing his autobiography, but ghost writer Robert Sampson (Jerry O'Connell) would disagree. He only has two pages of information after weeks of trying to get the maestro to sit down on one of the beautifully upholstered chairs in the gorgeous New York penthouse (designed by Derek McLane)  and concentrate on the project. His frustration is greater because he doesn't really care about the maestro's life --  he took the job so he could be near Raquel, whom he adores.

Raquel decides to hire Robert herself, when Vito ends up working for another editor at the publisher's, Iris Peabody (Anna Chlumsky) and the couple enters a competition to see who can finish first (even if all the stories contained aren't true) and start a new romance. Raquel's career might be over, but an upcoming tour that includes Fort Lauderdale, of all places, might be made more pleasant if Robert accompanies her. Meanwhile, a friendship develops between Iris and Robert.

If you can't figure out where this is going, you will be one of the few audience members for whom Living on Love isn't totally predictable. When DiPietro runs out of things to do, he has the couple's synchronized butlers, Bruce and Eric (Blake Hammond and Scott Robertson), deliver a lengthy pro-gay-marriage statement when they aren't singing opera while changing the set (direction is by Kathleen Marshall). Disappointing work from one of my favorite comedic book writers.

Stealing the show, more than once, is Raquel's little dog Puccini (played by Trixie, a rescue pooch with prior Broadway credits as Mr. Wuffles in Bullets Over Broadway. She is trained by William Berloni.)

While it's a treat to hear Fleming sing a few notes from time to time (and a disappointment not to hear Sills sing any), there's just not enough here to keep us entertained. And there's nothing anyone can do about it (to quote the statement made ad nauseum by the butler), even  Michael Krass, who designs flowing costumes for Fleming.

Living on Love has announced an early closing on May 3 at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th St., NYC. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $25 - $145: livingonlovebroadway.com.

Christians might like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Homosexuality

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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