You would think, after all of these years of chronicling an unprecedented amount of shows and networking and rendezvousing in and out of the theatre, that I would understand the train of thought that goes into mounting a Broadway production…even if the logic isn’t noticeable upon first glance.
Hahaha, yeah no. Let’s break it down...
Take Living on Love, which opened yesterday at the Longacre Theatre. Renee Fleming, multi-Grammy Award winner and Opera star (so I’m told, never heard of the gal, but a quick Google search would reveal that she does have her credentials in order). Renee is to make her Broadway debut? Well okay then! Let’s reserve the theatre and put the tickets on sale…and call the New York Times to arrange an exclusive.
Isn’t this exciting, you guys? Renee Fleming singing or sangin’ or whatever the kids are calling it these days will be on Broadway belting her pipes-…WAIT A MINUTE.
She’s not singing? In Living on Love, a riff on Garson Kanin’s Peccadillo, she plays an aging diva who sings (beautifully, might I add) for, like, two minutes if I were to add up the time cumulatively.
Makes perfect sense.
But okay, so Renee is not singing often. At least Kathleen Marshall is on-hand directing and she knows a thing or two about envisioning a music-…WAIT A MINUTE, THE SEQUEL.
We know Kathleen. And we occasionally like Kathleen’s work. One look at her IBDB profile reveals a countless number of musicals as a choreographer or director (if not, both). So, let’s have her direct a play where the most demanding choreography is…walking.
Makes Perfect Sense, Part Two: Electric Bugaloo.
So, while Fleming and Marshall’s talents are marginalized, we have Joe DiPietro providing the story (basically, the aforementioned diva and her husband feud with each other while flirting with the people they enlisted to write their autobiographies). Look, I’ll be honest...DiPietro and I have never saw eye-to-eye when it comes to his writing. Some people love Memphis and Nice Work If You Can Get It and want to stake a show on his talents…
I’m just not one of those people. An understatement really.
Get the point? Living on Love is conceptually a mess and its existence is puzzling, nay, downright baffling when you consider (some of) the talent involved. It is as if the entire production was trolling us and was like, “here are our collective strengths at our disposal, LET’S IGNORE THEM ALL BECAUSE REASONS!"
Just because Fleming is a world-renown singer doesn’t mean she’s obligated to do so every second she is on stage. Just because Marshall has directed Anything Goes or Grease or The Pajama Game or whatever, that doesn’t mean she is incapable of directing a play. I’m all for anyone doing whatever the fuck he/she wants and stepping outside of their milieu...
But the already-flimsy concept of Living on Love is met square-on with horrendous form from people capable of much better. DiPietro’s story is top-to-bottom lame-sauce as the not-plot and pathos and taste are all chucked for feeble attempts at old-fashioned comedy (with extra emphasis on the ‘old-fashioned’). Marshall’s direction is nowhere to be found. And while Fleming is inoffensive in the lead role, it was a pretty boring affair less her mere minutes of singing - all she had to do for a decent performance was stand there, put on dresses and gowns and pose. She showed up…role satisfied. And it still beats the aimless, embarrassing performances coming from Jerry O’Connell and Anna Chlumsky.
Maybe this is why I am not a Broadway producer…with the talent on hand, I’d have tossed around the idea of Kathleen Marshall directing the next revival of Gypsy. Renee Fleming could play Mama Rose. Sounds logical and straightforward. So of course, Broadway will never produce it.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus