Roger Hess Productions, Inc. recently presented the new Martin Charnin musical revue Love is Love at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Love is Love was developed as part of the "Village Originals" Program through the Village Theatre in Issaquah, Washington. The revue features music and lyrics by Richard Gray and Martin Charnin, and the writing of Catherine Lloyd Burns, Martin Charnin, Amy Ozols, Richard Reiss, Debra Spar and Ayelet Waldman.
Though best known for his work on the Broadway smash hit Annie, the creator and director of Love is Love, Martin Charnin, has been either a director, lyricist, librettist and/or producer for more than 125 different productions. Charnin has received four Tony nominations (winning two), six Drama Desk Awards, six Grammy Awards, three Emmy Awards, three Gold Records, two Platinum Records and the Peabody Award for Broadcasting.
Love is Love begins with the cast explaining the definition of a revue to the audience, and telling them what characters they will be playing. The cast then embarks on a series of completely unrelated songs and monologues supposedly united by the common subject matter of love. With Charnin's impressive list of credentials and a cast that includes Broadway icon Andrea McArdle, leggy Broadway beauty (and Charnin's wife) Shelly Burch, and noted Florida jazz singer Avery Sommers, how could this show miss? Oh, but miss it does, in a production that is riddled with shortcuts and poor writing.
With the exception of the song "Weak in the Knees," none of the actresses do anything in any of the songs or monologues to differentiate their characters. It is therefore a moot point to have them tell us they are someone different, and display a new character name on a screen behind them as they segue into the next number. It is hard to believe that Charnin, as the director, did not take the time to assist in their development of their portrayals. It is also inconceivable that Charnin could not have found a way to align these songs and monologues so that they had some sort of flow. If indeed it is all united by the subject matter of love, then the monologue entitled "Not Every Child," about a single businesswoman annoyed by the precocious child seated in front of her on a plane, in no way belongs in the show.
Monologues such as "Reunion," nicely acted by Shelly Burch, are clearly meant to tug at our emotions. Yet they are difficult for the audience to connect to as they are too long, have no reference point, and sometimes are written with puzzlingly weak finishes. The ending monologue is well written and has a welcome humorous twist. It is also, however, a story that I have heard paraphrased by more than one comedienne over the past several years.
The choreography is scattered and serves neither the needs of the songs nor the talents of the cast. Even some moments of staging seem hastily done and inorganic. Productions values falter with a minimal set featuring clear Lucite chairs and a few platforms painted black. The platform dead center had an unfinished edge visible from the audience as though the set crew was just too tired to care. Inconsistent costuming randomly provided unattractive outfits on some of the women. Ms. Hodos and Ms. Eyler suffered the most from costumes which poorly suited their figures, though neither woman seem particularly hard to fit.
The best two songs in the show are both done by Patti Eyler. Though Eyler can at times seem the least polished of the cast, she really sells the songs "8:45" and "June Bride." The first is an endearing tale of a middle-aged couple exchanging emails in anticipation of their romantic anniversary evening. The second features an exuberant 54-year-old, first time bride, about to marry her best friend in a non-traditional wedding. By and large, however, the songs are forgettable. In fact, on the night attended, there were two times that even some cast members forgot some of the words to ensemble numbers. The style of the music for the show is a cross between jazz cocktail lounge music without the elegance, and Carole King ballads with little of the heart. While there are moments of heart from time to time, they are fleeting and rare. This anticipated production is sorely disappointing and frankly in need of rewrites.
Love is Love appeared at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre October 15 - 18, 2009. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-3332 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates a member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.