December 12, 2018 at 1:35 pm PDT | by John Paul King
Holiday romance comes to life in ‘Love Actually Live’

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE performs at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (Courtesy the Wallis, Photo by Lawrence K. Ho)

If you’re a fan of the now-classic rom-com, “Love, Actually” – and who isn’t, really? – you’ll want to be at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts this holiday season for “Love Actually Live.”

A multimedia-concert celebration of the soundtrack to one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time, it’s an elaborate and ambitious world-premiere production from the team behind Los Angeles’ award-winning “For The Record” series, co-Produced by the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts, Shane Scheel and Siobhan O’Neill and inspired by the Universal Pictures/Working Title motion picture written by Richard Curtis.

It’s a production that Wallis Artistic Director Paul Crewes says, “reinvents the way the story is told.”

For this one-of-a-kind presentation, The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater is transferred into a giant, immersive, cinema for the modern day – a three-dimensional world where scenery and video screens intertwine, providing a canvas upon which actors weave between projections as they bring unforgettable scenes to life through the movie’s album. The film, along with original custom-video content illustrating the London-based setting, is displayed on screens that travel throughout the stage, immersing the singers and musicians in a cinematic spectacle.  An all-star cast, accompanied by a 15-piece orchestra, perform songs from the hit film, including “Christmas Is All Around,” “The Trouble with Love Is,” and “Both Sides Now.”

The lineup of outstanding vocalists includes Rumer Willis, Tony® and Grammy® Award-Winning Actor Steve Kazee, Kelley Jakle, Rex Smith, Grammy Award-nominee B. Slade, Carrie Manolakos, Justin Sargent, Zak Resnick, Doug Kreeger, Olivia Kuper Harris (of Postmodern Jukebox), Tomasina Abate, Sean Yves Lessard, Cairo McGee, Glory Curda, Tom Zmuda, Alex Csillag, Megan Shung, Carson Higgins and Emily Lopez.

Rex Smith and Company in LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE (Courtesy of the Wallis, Photo by Lawrence K. Ho)

“I couldn’t be more excited to have so many ‘For The Record’ alumni back with us this year, to bring ‘Love, Actually’ to life,” says executive producer Shane Scheel. “Every song on the ‘Love, Actually’ soundtrack helps tell the story of this beloved holiday movie, and the vocalists comprising this company will bring joy, tears, and adoration to audiences nightly.”

Created by Scheel and Anderson Davis, “For The Record” is an unconventional theatrical series, staged in a variety of immersive venues, that brings the soul of treasured directors’ films front and center: the soundtrack. Part rock-concert and part musical theater, this new generation cabaret experience is carving out a new place in the market that transcends the “jukebox musical,” and has featured the works of acclaimed directors such as Quentin Tarantino, John Hughes, Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Martin Scorsese.  “For The Record” has performed at venues around the country, including productions at the Montreal Jazz Festival and SXSW, a three year residency in Las Vegas and a show on the Norwegian cruise ship, Escape.

Until now, the format of “For The Record” has been to pay tribute to a Director’s entire canon of work – but “Love Actually Live” is a different experience, focusing on one specific film and incorporating actual footage from the movie into the presentation.

Scheel explains, “A couple of years ago, I was watching one of my favorite films and realized how great the soundtrack is and shared the idea of turning “Love, Actually” into a show with my collaborators, Anderson Davis and Jesse Vargas.”

After a three-night workshop last year in the Wallis’ smaller Studio Theatre was a success, the team started working on a full-scale realization.

“This is the largest FTR production to date,” Scheel says. “The addition of the film content has added a substantial multi-media component to the show. We have also expanded the size of orchestra for this show and the cast is nearly double any previous production.”

Crews says that FTR’s latest offering “will move and embrace audiences of every generation.”

“This production has live music, live performance and edited exerts from the film,” he explains.  “It’s a unique process where we are mixing the precision of film with live performance – the two are interwoven in telling this story, rather than layered when you play live music alongside a film.”

He admits it’s been a massive undertaking – “the process has been intense,” he says – and that the FTR and Wallis teams have been working together for months to make it happen.

He’s quick to add, though, that director Anderson Davies “is at the epicenter of this amazing piece of work.”

As for the film itself, “Love, Actually” has had audiences laughing, crying and hugging since it first premiered in the U.S. in 2003.  With an all-star cast including Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, and Emma Thompson (among many others), it’s a heartwarming romantic comedy about eight couples whose lives intersect shortly before the holidays. Its hilariously unpredictable plot examines how love inspires experiences that are alternately exciting, unexpected and unequalled. Since its debut, “Love, Actually” has become a new holiday classic, and according to Entertainment Weekly, “one of the great Christmas movies” of all time.

Crewes believes the reason the film has become so beloved is also the reason FTR’s new theatrical interpretation is such a perfect fit.

“The love stories told are so engaging,” he says, “and the soundtrack is fantastic.”

As for why “Love Actually Live” is such an appropriate holiday offering in the current cultural climate, he offers this further observation.

“Talking about LOVE (not hate) is always timely.”

 

The show began preview performances on Dec. 4, but the official opening night is December 12.  It’s sure to be popular, so get your tickets now.

“LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE”
Tuesday, December 4, through Monday, December 31, 2018
Weekdays, 7:30 pm; Saturdays, 2 pm and 7:30 pm; and Sundays, 2 pm and 7 pm
New Year’s Eve Celebration, December 31, 8:00pm

 Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Bram Goldsmith Theater
9390 N. Santa Monica Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

 For tickets and more info go to TheWallis.org or call the Wallis Box Office at 310.746.4000.

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