“Love, Actually” is a 2003 romantic comedy about the ups and downs of eight different but interrelated couples in London.
It is also the favorite Christmas film of me and my wife.
So it was with great trepidation that I went to The Apollo Theater, 2550 N. Lincoln, for its current production, “Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody,” with book and lyrics by Bob and Tobly McSmith.
As it turned out, there was no need for concern. The show was quite good. Funny, actually.
The original movie featured an array of great British film talent, including Hugh Grant as the young British prime minister who is smitten with a member of his household staff, played by Martine McCutcheon, who is hit on by Billy Bob Thornton, the visiting, womanizing U.S. President.
Emma Thompson portrays Grant’s sister, married to Alan Rickman, the head of an ad agency where his flirtatious, sexy secretary is trying to tempt him.
Laura Linney plays another one of his employees. She’s in love with a co-worker but unable to express her feelings because of her commitment to her mentally challenged brother.
Liam Neeson is a recent widower, frustrated with the task of raising his late wife’s young son, Samuel.
Keira Knightley marries Chiwetel Ejiofor in a ceremony videotaped by his best friend played by Andrew Lincoln, who is secretly in love with the bride.
Colin Firth, a writer whose girlfriend has cheated on him, falls for his Portuguese-speaking housemaid.
Martin Freeman and Joanna Page simulate sex as stand-ins in a porn movie, Kris Marshall plays a brash young Brit who travels to a Milwaukee bar to meet American girls and Bill Nighy is a randy, aging rock star seeking a comeback.
I specifically mentioned the name of each star because that is precisely the name they go by in this parody performance.
Their impersonation by their assigned actors, all of whom have Chicago credits, using only the barest of accents, movement, costumes and wigs are truly the highlight of the show.
What is amazing is that each actor, in addition to their assigned role, plays a dazzling array of multiple characters.
The six-person cast, under the direction of Tim Drucker, does an incredible job in depicting this 60-character show, with 24 musical numbers, 11 of them original songs. It’s nonstop farce for 85 minutes.
Especially notable are Ann Delaney as Thompson, Linney, McCutcheon and others, and Anna Walker as the ever-smiling Knightley, young Samuel, Rickman’s flirtatious secretary and others.
The Rickman role, costumed in a dark robe with a nod to his portrayal of Professor Snape in “Harry Potter,” is played by Christopher Wayland, who also portrays the Neeson, Nighy and Thornton roles.
Jake Elkins is right on the money in the Firth role and as a number of others, including hilarious scenes in drag.
Dan Plehal shines in Grant’s prime minister part and others, including Ms. Dunkin Donut of 2003.
Also outstanding is Ryan Foreman in an assortment of other parts including Keira Knightley’s husband and a cameo appearance as Tiny Tim of “A Christmas Carol.”
If this all seems a bit confusing, don’t be concerned. It all seems to work out in the end.
However, it might prove helpful to watch the original movie, available on streaming services, to fully appreciate the wonderful impersonations and the great humor this production has to offer. The show runs through Jan. 2.
The 1992 film “Sister Act” is yet another movie that was made into a successful Broadway musical, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater.
The latest version of that show — which originally featured Whoopi Goldberg as the diva singer, who, after witnessing a murder, is put into protective custody and disguised as a nun in a convent — is currently at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, through Jan. 2.
Under the new leadership of artistic director Christopher Chase Carter and managing director Shane Murray-Corcoran, and the continued guidance of executive producers Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon, this theater company continues to spare no expense in bringing the best produced musicals to the Southport Corridor.
Directed by Reneisha Jenkins with music direction by Diana Lawrence, this delightful, feel-good production stars the phenomenal, Jeff Award winning Alexis J. Roston as Deloris, the ersatz nun who transforms her sedate sisterhood into a television singing sensation.
Gilbert Domally portrays Eddie, her detective boyfriend. Jane Grebeck-Brewer is featured as the stern but caring Mother Superior; Ed Kross as Monsignor O’Hara, portraying the priest as a wannabe rock star; and Isabella Andrews as the novitiate Mary Robert who is questioning her life decision.
Both these productions should provide welcome additions to this year’s holiday entertainment calendar.