Review of Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Presentation of the Regional Premiere of Tony Award-winner Joe DiPietro’s Music-Infused Comedy “Living on Love”

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LIVING ON LOVE REVIEW
by Paul R. Zeissler

New comedies are always exciting and nerve-wracking for audiences to experience in today’s American theatre. Unlike productions of tried-and-true comedies such as HARVEY or ARSENIC AND OLD LACE, the audience doesn’t know what to expect.
Sarasota’s Asolo Rep opened its curtains on a new work by Tony Award-winning playwright Joe DiPietro that is creatively directed by their own Peter Amster. Because Asolo Rep took a chance on a fresh play, our theatre-going friends now have a new evening of laughs to enjoy and support.
LIVING ON LOVE is a comedy that edges close to farce occasionally, with the story of Raquel, (an opera Diva played by Rebecca Caine) and her rocky marriage to symphony Maestro Vito De Angelis (played by Karl Hamilton).  In this comedy, we learn that even the most tumultuous opera is no match for the titanic melodrama of the Maestro’s and Diva’s almost invisible marriage.
When Raquel discovers that Vito has eyes for a young, beautiful ghostwriter who is helping him with his autobiography, the Diva doesn’t get mad, she gets even. Raquel soon hires an equally young and attractive scribe to pen her own book. The two trade divorce threats, vowing and planning to marry the youngsters and start all over again away from each other’s tortuous egos.  Two snippy and hilariously playful butlers, plus a ridiculously funny stuffed pooch named “Puccini,” just need to get out of the way and hang on for the ride with the rest of us.
Karl Hamilton is a Chicago actor making his debut in Sarasota. He deftly bombasts the rest of the ensemble with vigor, and keeps the crowd laughing with his character’s hair-trigger temper and monumental vanity. Hamilton turns in a very memorable performance.
Rebecca Caine is another actor new to the Asolo Rep stage. She is an internationally renowned Canadian soprano who has starred in operas and musical theatre productions in Europe and Canada, including with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  Caine’s beautiful singing voice and her portrayal of intense vanity make her energetic performance the perfect foil for the Maestro’s over-riding arrogance.
Together they make a perfectly hilarious, miserable, married match.
Roland Rusinek and Matthew McGee play the two inseparable, snarky butlers who propel the contorted plot through some of the funniest moments of the evening. We look forward to their re-appearance in future productions, as we did to their characters’ appearance on the stage each time in LIVING ON LOVE.
Josh James and Ally Farzetta, both third year graduate acting students, round out the human cast with delightful performances and well-played, whimsical characters.
Puccini the pooch needs all of the support and encouragement he can get from Caine. The poor doggie.
The sets and costumes of Robert Perdziola beautifully support Amster’s blocking and direction, as does the flawless lighting of Christopher Ostrom and sound by Mathew Parker.
The hair and make-up artistry of Michelle Hart, and dialect coaching of Patricia Delorey, round out a very enjoyable production.
There are a few surprises from the cast intended for their delighted audience, so I will let you discover them for yourselves.
I highly recommend Sarasota area theatre-goers make time in their schedules to see Joe DiPietro’s LIVING ON LOVE, artfully directed by Peter Amster who allowed the playwright’s words and actors’ abilities to present us all with a very enjoyable evening.
Performances and other special production events continue for LIVING ON LOVE until February 25.

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Asolo Rep Proudly Presents the Regional Premiere of Tony Award- winner 
Joe DiPietro's Music-Infused Comedy Living on Love

“We’re talking big laughs.” — New York Post

(SARASOTA, December 9, 2015) — Asolo Rep proudly presents the regional premiere of two- time Tony Award®-winner Joe DiPietro’s effervescent music-infused comedy, LIVING ON LOVE, which premiered on Broadway in the spring of 2015. Directed by Peter Amster, who helmed last season’s box office record-breaking production of The Matchmaker, previews are January 13 and 14 at 8pm, the production opens on Friday, January 15 at 8pm and runs in rotating repertory through Thursday, February 25 in the Mertz Theatre.

Like a fine vintage champagne, celebrity opera diva Raquel and her egotistical maestro husband Vito De Angelis bubble over with much more than just musical prowess. The drama of any opera is no match for the melodrama of their marriage. When Raquel discovers that Vito has eyes for the young, beautiful ghostwriter hired to write his autobiography, she doesn’t get mad, she gets even and hires an equally young and attractive scribe to pen her own autobiography. A pair of playful butlers and Raquel’s Pomeranian pooch “Puccini” round out this glamourous world where all might just be fair in love and war.

“When I sat down to read LIVING ON LOVE for the first time, I started laughing on page one, and didn’t really stop until right near the end, when its sentiment and depth of feeling surprised and moved me,” said Director Peter Amster. “I have a special place in my heart for stories about performers who are larger than life, behaving badly, full of passion, full of insecurities, and full of themselves. And I have another special place in my heart for opera, and the fact that Raquel, the leading lady, is an opera diva, and snippets of La Bohème, Carmen, The Magic Flute and The Pearl Fishers, among others, float on the air throughout the show, gives the play ‘extra credit’ in my book.”

Globally renowned opera and West End sensation Rebecca Caine stars as dramatic diva Raquel De Angelis. Ms. Caine originated the role of Cosette in the 1985 world premiere Royal Shakespeare Company production of Les Misérables and the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in Canada. Chicago-based actor Karl Hamilton, who was recently seen in The Goodman Theatre’s production of The Jungle Book, stars as her maestro husband, Vito De Angelis. He also plays Senator Hubert Humphrey in Asolo Rep’s production of All the Way.

Playwright Joe DiPietro received two Tony Awards for writing the book and lyrics for the 2010 Broadway hit musical Memphis. He was nominated for a Tony Award for penning the book for the musical Nice Work If You Can Get It. On Broadway, he also wrote the book for All Shook Up. LIVING ON LOVE is based on the 1985 classic play Peccadillo by Academy Award®- winner Garson Kanin.

“We are thrilled to present the regional premiere of LIVING ON LOVE – a brand new American comedy,” said Michael Donald Edwards, Producing Artistic Director of Asolo Rep. “Tony Award- winner Joe DiPietro’s outrageously over the top characters somehow tap into the most basic human needs in this hilarious and hugely touching production filled with lots of laughs and love.”

CAST

(In Order of Appearance)

Josh James Robert Samson

Roland Rusinek* Eric

Matthew McGee* Bruce

Karl Hamilton* Vito De Angelis

Rebecca Caine* Raquel De Angelis

Ally Farzetta Iris Peabody

* = Members of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

SELECTED CREATIVE TEAM MEMBERS

Director Peter Amster

Scenic and Costume Designer Robert Perdziola

Lighting Designer Christopher Ostrom

Sound Designer Matthew Parker

Hair/Wig & Make-Up Designer Michelle Hart

Voice & Dialect Coach Patricia Delorey

SELECTED ARTISTIC BIOS

(In Alphabetical Order)

PETER AMSTER ASSOCIATE ARTIST, EIGHTH SEASON (Director, Living on Love) returns to Asolo Rep where he directed The Matchmaker, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, You Can’t Take it With You, Fallen Angels, Deathtrap, The Perfume Shop, This Wonderful Life and choreographed 1776. In Chicago, he was nominated for Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing Once on this Island, The World Goes Round, The Rothschilds (Apple Tree Theatre), and Pride and Prejudice (Northlight Theatre). Other Chicago area theatres include Steppenwolf, The Goodman, The Court, Live Bait, Pegasus, and Route 66. Regional theatres include the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Utah Shakespeare Festival, ACT, Syracuse Stage, Geva Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, American Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Peninsula Players, Weston Playhouse, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, and Laguna Playhouse. Peter has directed and choreographed operas for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Opera Theatre, Skylight Opera in Milwaukee, and Light Opera Works in Evanston, IL.

REBECCA CAINE* GUEST ARTIST, FIRST SEASON (Raquel De Angelis, Living on Love) is an internationally renowned Canadian soprano. Her experience encompasses opera, musical

theatre and cabaret. She has sung a wide range of operatic roles from Monteverdi and Mozart, through Verdi to Berg at such houses as Glyndebourne, English National Opera, Antwerp, Prague, Nice, Glimmerglass and the Canadian Opera Company. Caine has also created roles in contemporary opera. In musical theatre, she created the role of Cosette at the premiere

of Les Misérables in 1985 for the Royal Shakespeare Company and originated the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera in Canada. Other work includes leads in My Fair Lady and Oklahoma! in the West End. Her recordings include Leading Ladies, her solo album.

KARL HAMILTON* GUEST ARTIST, FIRST SEASON (Sen. Hubert Humphrey, All the Way; Vito De Angelis, Living on Love) Mr. Hamilton is absolutely thrilled to avoid Chicago’s winter and make his Asolo Rep debut. His Chicago credits include: The Most Happy Fella (Ravinia

Festival), The Jungle Book and By the Music of the Spheres (Goodman), Ride the Cyclone, The Three Musketeers, The Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It (Chicago Shakespeare Theater) A Christmas Carol, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Mame (Drury Lane Oakbrook), For the Boys, The Full Monty and Shenandoah (Marriott), The Christmas

Schooner and The Addams Family (Mercury) which earned him a Jeff Nomination for his portrayal of Gomez. Karl remains a proud and outspoken member of the Actors’ Equity Association.

LIVING ON LOVE PUBLIC PROGRAMMING

Inside Asolo Rep: LIVING ON LOVE & AH, WILDERNESS!

Wednesday, January 27 at 11am Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Panel discussions are $5 and free for all donors and Asolo Rep Guild Members

Get rare insights into the artistic process, hear directly from the people responsible for producing LIVING ON LOVE and AH, WILDERNESS!, and engage in stimulating discussion inspired by the plays’ themes and issues.

Inside Asolo Rep is sponsored by Hotel Indigo and the Observer

[email protected]: LIVING ON LOVE

Wednesday, February 17 at 6:30pm; show starts at 7:30pm Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Contact Asolo Rep’s Box Office for subscription and ticket information

Now in its seventh season, [email protected] is Sarasota’s premier cultural event connecting local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender communities with fantastic theatre. Enjoy a pre- show reception and learn about participating LGBT organizations, gain personal insight into LIVING ON LOVE from the creative team and cast members, and mingle with the actors and other OUT attendees after the performance.

[email protected] is sponsored by U.S. Trust, Visit Sarasota County, Morton’s Gourmet Market & Catering, Community Foundation of Sarasota County – Our Sarasota Fund and McCauley Brown Fund, and Watermark Media.

The Scoop

One hour prior to every performance of LIVING ON LOVE

Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre, orchestra level

Arrive one hour before curtain to hear the ideas and inspirations that contributed to the making of LIVING ON LOVE.

Tuesday Talkbacks

February 9 & 23

Asolo Rep’s Mezzanine

Join us for an intimate post-show discussion with featured actors or guests following every Tuesday performance of LIVING ON LOVE.

Meet the Actors

Sunday, February 21 at 2pm Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre

Immediately following the 2pm matinee, ask questions and learn more from members of the cast at this intimate discussion.

TICKETS

New this Season: Start times for Wednesday & Thursday performances will be moved one-half hour earlier to 1:30pm and 7:30pm. All preview performances will begin at 8pm.

Tickets for LIVING ON LOVE and the entire 2015-2016 Asolo Repertory Theatre season are on sale now. Tickets for LIVING ON LOVE start at $24. To purchase tickets, call 941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388, visit www.asolorep.org, or visit the Asolo Repertory Theatre Box Office, located in the lobby of the theatre. Asolo Repertory Theatre is located at 5555 North Tamiami Trail in the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. The box office is currently open Monday 10am – 4pm, Tuesday – Thursday 10am – 7:30pm, Friday – Saturday 10am – 8pm, and Sunday 10am – 2pm. The box office closes at 5pm when there are no evening performances and phone lines close one hour prior to the start of any performance. Season subscription packages are also available online and by visiting or calling the box office.

 

SPONSORS

Asolo Rep is able to present LIVING ON LOVE because of the generosity of its sponsors. Corporate sponsors for LIVING ON LOVE are Sun Hydraulics, WUSF, Stella Artois, Observer Media Group, Modern Events, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Asolo Rep 2015-2016 Major Season Sponsors are Florida State University, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, Designing Women Boutique, Woman’s Exchange, Inc., and Sunset Cadillac of Bradenton. Asolo Rep’s artistic programs are paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues. Asolo Rep is sponsored in part by the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

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