Five Reasons Why the Unauthorized Parody Love Actually is Actually Quite Lovely
By: Iris Wiener
December 16, 2019: Taking in a sickeningly sweet romantic comedy is so last year. Unsurprisingly, Tobly and Bob McSmith, the brilliant, quick-thinking minds behind Bayside! The Musical!, Showgirls! The Musical! and The Office! A Musical Parody, have concocted an epically funny gift to New York with Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody. Now running at the Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center, the musical is a send-up of the 2003 film in which a panoply of loosely written relationships are explored with gooey, Christmas delight. The zany musical cleverly takes aim at the film’s most clichéd, cheesy tropes. Though there are many reasons to treat oneself to this gem, here are five:
1. The laughter is non-stop and relentless, to the point where audiences’ cheeks hurt and tears are shed. It is unadulterated joy at its finest.
2. The film leaves so many plot-related questions unanswered (ex. Is there any finality with Keira Knightley after Andrew Lincoln holds up those ridiculous signs?). Rather than attempt to answer them, the musical asks new, blatantly obvious questions that everyone asks while watching: Why does the film run over two hours? What was Laura Linney doing in the movie? What was up with Keira Knightley’s hair? Are white people the only people who can fall in love? Nobody and nothing is safe.
3. As with all McSmith productions, pop culture references are plentiful, as are smart quips and playful lyrics poking fun at the actors in the film. As Hugh Grant (yes, his character here takes the name of the actor in the film), Eric Peters croons, “I’m so cute you forgot I got caught with a prostitute.” Daniel Hayward’s Liam (Neeson, complete with his deep brogue) is concerned that his young son will be “taken.” Even the music from the film gets a few nods. Look for a side-splittingly hilarious nod to Dido’s “Here With Me,” prominently displayed in the film with an overdramatic montage featuring Andrew Lincoln.
4. Tim Drucker directs six insanely talented actors in a multitude of roles that populated the jam-packed film (here it is expertly condensed into 90 minutes of fast-paced hilarity). Kayla Catan’s transformation from home-wrecker secretary to Keira Knightley is genius (her take on Knightley’s iconic square-jawed smile is worth every penny of ticket value), while Joyah Spangler’s renditions of Emma and Laura (Thompson and Linney, respectively) is both vocally and comedically astounding; she’ll certainly be fronting one of Broadway’s glitzy new musical comedies in no time. Peters’ take on Hugh Grant’s prime minister is spot-on, especially as he contemplates the reason for Billy Bob Thornton winning an Oscar for Sling Blade. James Park’s skill with quick changes and character study is a joy to behold, while Daniel Hayward’s Professor Snape (you read that correctly) is dynamic every moment he is on stage. Tony Tillman often steals the show as British VJ Downtown Abby, a character that fits in no box that has ever existed.
5. Basil Winterbottom’s music and orchestrations are upbeat and festive; coupled with the McSmiths’ book and lyrics, it sets the tone for this uproarious treat. Look for “The Lament of Laura Linney,” a number more memorable than some of Adele’s finest. “The 11 O’Clock Grand Gesture Number” is impossibly catchy (and as exceptionally clever as its title). Whether Winterbottom was scoring a lascivious scene at an art gallery holiday party or injecting the score with notes of Joni Mitchell (whose music is a plot point in the film), his songs are perfectly varied and inventive.
Jerry Orbach Theater at the Theater Center
1627 Broadway, 3rd floor
For Tickets Click Here
Photography: Jeremy Daniel