Out of nowhere—considering my pathological aversion to feel-good musicals (hated Mamma Mia, but only because I have eyes and ears, Xanadu and Priscilla Queen of the Desert)—I succumbed to an impulsive urge to attend a reading of a new musical based on the old hits of Air Supply called Lost in Love. Well, not exactly out of nowhere, considering a friend of mine knows the writer, another friend is obsessed with the writer and the show's VIP meet-and-greet featured starfucking opportunities with a variety of people I'd never met.
Melissa Bell did the book (there's a need for a reference to a candle in there somewhere) and is the object of an old pal's fascination because she was once with a group called Sinnamon:
Tim had always brought up Sinnamon's song "Thanks to You" any time we discussed favorite tunes. It was almost as ridiculous as my compulsion to work the movie Looker into any and every conversation. So it came as quite a shock when, during a mutual friend's house party, we overheard a woman discussing her previous career as a member of that very group. Tim's eyes bugged out of his head and he dropped me like weight after a cleanse to gush to her. Years later, she's focusing on writing, with Lost in Love one of two projects she's working on with Air Supply.
I went to this reading alone (are you surprised?) and found myself in the front row at the Triad alongside an actual Air Supply fan. I like Air Supply as much as if not more than the next person, but I can't call myself a fan as she can—she was visiting NYC for the first time in over 20 years strictly for this show and was recognized and acknowledged by both members of Air Supply throughout the evening.
Sipping my $20 worth of cranberry juice and peanuts (did I mention I could easily be on the verge of being unemployed?), I was wondering why in the hell I gave this show a try. But I'm glad I did, because while I can't guarantee I wouldn't write a savage review of the finished product, I thoroughly enjoyed this loopy reading. There's something about the can-do air of a reading that carries me along for the ride, like I'm an investor, came up with the idea or am expected on stage to deliver a few lines.
The show is a fun piece fluff about a broke Italian prince (Constantine Maroulis) who's been matched up with a naive American heiress (Lynn Craig) only to discover that her best friend (Kristin Piacentile) is a girl he met and fell in love with in his native land back when both were kids. There's a buttinksy British auntie (Wren Marie Harrington), a gold-digging doyenne (foxy Andrea McArdle) and of course the heiress's cold-hearted robber baron big brother (Paul Jackel) to keep the simplistic, turn-of-the-last-century story chugging along a familiar path, all while the audience is being serenaded, entertained and occasionally assaulted by Air Supply music.
If the show progresses, there's no telling which, if any, of this cast would progress with it, but I was completely charmed by Maroulis (never saw him in his Tony-nominated role in Rock of Ages), whose sex appeal lies in his sweet voice, self-deprecating gestures (he goofed several times and was quick to acknowledge it) and of course all that hair. Without it, he might do a mean Moe Szyslak. But with it, we definitely understand why a raving beauty like the one played by Piacentile might fall for this.
Piacentile was perfect and sang beautifully, especially the new song "Runaway", and Craig was able to create a character whose innate cock-blocking never threatened to make her unsympathetic.
I was less in love with Jackel, who sings well but whose debonair quality got in the way of some moments that required him to rock out a bit.
I couldn't take my eyes off of Nicholas Rodriguez, who displayed leading-man qualities in spite of having a distressingly small part and spending most of the night in the shockingly large ensemble. (How they all fit on stage at the Triad is a miracle—it's a wonder the room itself maintained adequate air supply.)
As for the songs, played by a well preserved Russell Graham (vocalist Russell Hitchcock watched from the audience), I have to say that Air Supply's really, really easy-listening catalogue fits mostly seamlessly into the context of musical theater. In particular, "Sweet Dreams", "The One That You Love" and "All Out of Love" sound just about perfect being sung by lovestruck figments of our amorous imaginations. I must say that "Makin' Love Out of Nothing at All" sounded ridiculous; someting about the reptitive lyrics and modern content just didn't work for me.
McArdle (who reminds me intensely of Jane Krakowski) and Harrington openly chewed scenery (please, have seconds!) selling us "2 Little Ducks," a naughty show-stopper that someone should perform as part of a real-life marriage proposal. Any song that gets the original Annie to warble about "points of entry" suggestively is aces in my book.
Is Lost in Love brilliant? Nope. It didn't move me or teach me anything. But I did really enjoy watching and listening to it. I'm not sure if the creators will convince investors that Americans (who are we kidding—America's foreign tourists!) are ready for an entire schmaltzy musical based on their songs, but then who would've thought Mamma Mia would last longer than ABBA itself did?
"Sweet Dreams", "I Can Wait Forever", "Lost in Love", "2 Little Ducks", "A Little Piece of You", "The Way I Feel", "Someone", "Runaway", "Makin' Love Out of Nothing At All" (weirdly listed as "Makin'" but it's actually "Making")
"Just When I Thought I Was Over You", "Two Less Lonely People in the World", "Four Less Lonely People", "The One That You Love", "All Out of Love", "Goodbye", "Chances", "Why Do I Love You", "Now and Forever", "Even the Nights"/"Faith in Love"/"Lost in Love"
This evening was a benefit for The Actors Fund, and as such had a paid VIP meet-and-greet afterward. No way did the huffing dozens who were squeezed into an upstairs chamber all pay $100 for the privilege. It was chaos! Instead of a formal receiving line and professional photo op, we were funneled in and just encouraged to get whichever stars we could with our own cameras.
As it turned out, it wasn't so bad, just a bit frenzied. Graham and his wife were super approachable, as was Hitchcock. When I asked them to also sign my original "Makin' Love Out of Nothing At All" 45 sleeve, both reacted as if they'd never seen it but signed happily and were gracious. Hitchcock noted that watching the musical was "weird" (for obvious reasons) but that he always enjoys hearing other people's interpretations of the songs he helped make famous.
My pal Bruce, a pro shooter, was kind enough to nab most of my pic-withs, including a shot of me with both Air Suppliers and with Constantine. It was a delight meeting William Blake, whose camp butler in the production had muttered an "mmm-hmmm" worthy of a Good Times extra, always attention-grabbing in the early 1900s!
Sweating profusely and carrying a program bearing just about every cast member's autograph, I slunk off into the not-yet-dark, humming "Even the Nights Are Better", even though I still do not understand why it would surprise someone that even their nights would improve upon uniting with a new lover...?