In a star-filled, opening-night audience for “Love Actually Live,” which included Stephanie Beatriz (“Brooklyn 99”), Aimee Garcia (“Lucifer”), Jenna Dewan (“Step Up”), Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”) and more, it only took a few pre-show conversations to understand why the entire run is already a near sell-out at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
“I’ve watched [the original 2003 movie ‘Love Actually’] probably 45 times,” said Garcia, upon arriving at the theater, noting that, in keeping with the holiday spirit, she brought along her two best friends.
“Maybe 45 times is a little exaggerated,” she added, “but you’d be surprised. I’ve seen it on planes and I’ve seen lots of pieces other times. … I really believe love is a superpower, and the movie chronicles all sorts of love: love between a father and a son; love between a brother and a sister; love between people who don’t speak the same language; and more.”
A co-production of the Wallis and the theatrical series For the Record, “Love Actually Live” celebrated its world premiere Dec. 12 at the Wallis Annenberg Center. Following the show, the cast joined opening-night patrons in the lobby for cocktails and a choice of hors d’oeuvres in a British theme.
“Love Actually Live” is a multimedia presentation of the soundtrack to the holiday classic, complete with film clips, screen projections, an award-winning cast to perform the songs and a 15-piece orchestra.
On stage to sing “Christmas is All Around,” “Jump,” “Both Sides Now” and more of the show’s classic tunes were Rumer Willis, Steve Kazee, B. Slade, Rex Smith, Kelley Jakle, Carrie Manolakos, Justin Matthew Sargent, Zak Resnick, Doug Kreeger, Olivia Kuper Harris, Tomasina Abate, Sean Yves Lessard, Cairo McGee, Glory Curda, Tom Zmuda, Alex Csillag, Megan Shung, Carson Higgins and Emily Lopez.
The Tony-winning Kazee, the show’s Jamie, called the production a “good send-off into the holiday spirit.” He took a few moments to chat with us after talking to a cluster of people, which included new love interest Dewan, who wore a festive, hard-to-miss knockout of a red jumpsuit to the show.
“When you’re in L.A., it never really feels like the holidays — at least that’s my experience,” he said. “I’m from back East so I’m used to having full seasons. … So to be able to see the movie every night and then be able to sing the songs fills up that holiday spirit pretty well for me.”
Olivia Olson, who played the original film’s Joanna at the age of 10, caught up with Glory Curda, her counterpart in the new production, but not until after telling us, “People are surprised to see I’m an adult. Literally, they say, ‘I was expecting to see a little girl.’ ” She added that she and her then-onscreen young love interest, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who’s now in “Game of Thrones,” still keep in touch.
No matter that the 2003 film may have some flaws by today’s standards, the opening-night theater attendees appeared to be willing to forgive and forget. In an early-evening conversation, Beatriz said she had also seen the film multiple times, adding, “as problematic as it is.” She praised the film for tapping into people’s deep-seated feelings of joy in the holiday season but also took note of what would now be considered politically incorrect moments.
“One of the main characters is described as pudgy,” she said.“Nowadays, if we’re talking about a woman’s size in a film, we’ve evolved to a point where we’re talking about it for a reason — not as something that’s going to get in the way of finding love. One of the great things about the movie is that it sends up that sort of stereotype, in the fact, that the hero is in love with that character.”
“I love [‘Love Actually’]. It’s such fun, romantic holiday film, and this is a perfect way to reinvent it,” said Rumer Willis, who plays the roles of both Juliet and Mia — one a blonde and the other a brunette, which she said, keeps her “switching back and forth quite a bit backstage.”
“When I come out in the show, I’m back in 1977, Madison Square Garden,” said former rock ‘n’ roller Rex Smith, who plays the film’s recording star, Billy Mack.
“It has been a joy to bring this show to life,” said Shane Scheel, For the Record co-creator and executive producer. “Everywhere I go, I talk to people who love this film. People may think of it as a female rom-com, but most guys I know love this movie. There are a lot of cool male characters that make it a man’s man movie too.”
“It’s one of those films that everyone loves,” said Paul Crewes, artistic director for the Wallis. “People may not love every story, but everyone finds something in there.”
“Seeing this reminds me how great that movie is,” said O’Hara, chatting with cast members and friends. “Now I want to see it again.”
Having also starred in previous For the Record productions, B. Slade, the show’s Peter, said he’s proud to be part of this new way “to introduce or re-introduce films” and suggested people watch the film again. The best part? “It’s on Netflix now,” he said.
“Love Actually Live” continues through Dec. 31. For further information, call (310) 746-4000 or go to thewallis.org.
Ellen Olivier is the founder of Society News LA.
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