By Anna DeNoia
Looking for laughs this holiday season? Look no further than the quick and clever Love, Actually?: The Unauthorized Musical Parody. The beloved British rom-com has become a Christmas classic after its release in 2003, with its sprawling ensemble cast of superstars and countless converging storylines. While that sprawl can make it difficult to recall the names of its many characters— surely too big an ask for a parody audience, at least— thankfully Love, Actually? sets no such expectation. Instead, each role is a caricature of the movie star who played the part in the film. Indeed, the six actors simply refer to each other as Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth— the list goes on…and on and on.
This ethos of poking fun at the film’s many stars is responsible for a good percentage of the production’s laughs (say, ominous Harry Potter music for Alan Rickman’s entrance). It also allows this talented cast to show off their impressive Rolodex of impressions. Some highlights include Ann Delaney, who nails Laura Linney’s uncanny cadence as she musically bemoans why the hell she’s even in this movie, and Amanda Walker’s spot-on, slightly pained Keira Knightley smile. Even Joshua Warner’s set design gets in on the parody— the glittery London skyline is displayed beneath a large red ribbon bow, wrapping the set in a clever allusion to the movie’s poster.
Love, Actually? is certainly a sprint, not a marathon. The eighty-five-minute production moves at a breakneck pace (and it should, considering the original film is about two and a half hours long). With the small cast in constant motion and relying heavily on quick (often layered) wig and costume changes to switch from story to story, this production is a logistical minefield. It’s masterfully navigated, however, as this well-oiled machine transitions with impressive precision— certainly a credit to Tim Drucker’s clever direction. We rarely spend more than a minute or two at a time with any particular character or storyline, but this is far from detrimental. The jokes fire rapidly while the familiar plot points are still hit with the proper aplomb– essentially eliminating the possibility of boredom.
Writers Bob and Tobly McSmith are veterans of this form with a tried-and-trueformula to delight their audiences, having previously found success with their musical parodies of other pop culture smash hits such as Friends and The Office. While the musical elements of the show are admittedly simple without a live band or many memorable melodies, the show’s talented cast, clever comedy, fast pace, and clear affection for the source material do not disappoint. The production is sure to delight anyone with an affinity for musical theatre, rom-coms, Hugh Grant, or the holiday season— and I mean that, actually.
Love, Actually?: The Unauthorized Musical Parody runs through January 2nd, 2022, at the Apollo Theater, 2550 N Lincoln Ave.
For tickets or more information, please call (773) 935-6100, or visit apollochicago.com.
Photos by Timothy M. Schmidt.