Theater returned in 2021, but it was still relatively slow coming back in the pandemic. As the year comes to a close it’s been a real gift getting to see performances live on stage again. Just in time for Christmas, Love Actually Live at the Wallis provides a festive theater-cinema experience worth venturing out for.
With a star-studded cast and feel good themes of romance, friendship and family, Love Actually has become a holiday classic that fans watch every year right alongside faves like A Christmas Story and Elf. This immersive, multi-dimensional version interweaves memorable scenes from the 2003 film on giant screens above the stage with live action song and dance that even extends into the crowd at times adding melodious spark to the story. The cast of singers impress, including performers from Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and American Idol plus a stand out turn from Brian McKnight Jr., son of R&B star Brian McKnight. They’re joined by a live orchestra reinterpreting songs from the film’s soundtrack. “Christmas is All Around,” “Trouble with Love, ” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” get sexy, sassy and emotive renditions alongside new numbers fleshing out the narrative.
L.A.’s For The Record co-produces the show, which debuted in 2018 and returned in 2019, ultimately becoming the Wallis’s most popular production ever. Catching the 2021 version feels like a much needed dose of joy after the past two years, and the show we attended was uplifting even though it began on a somber note. The presentation started with a remembrance and moment of silence for Jacqueline Avant, the wife of music executive Clarence Avant, who was shot and killed that week during a home invasion robbery. Avant was an active philanthropist and a beloved member of the board for the Wallis Annenberg Center.
Charity and good will remain a big part of this show for all involved. Red Nose Day, co-founded by Love Actually writer/director Richard Curtis, has a presence via the merch table, with different opportunities to help less fortunate. At each performance, limited-edition t-shirts designed by artist Charlie Mackesy are sold. Additionally, guests are invited to purchase a decorative bow and note for a minimum of $5 to hang on the tree in The Wallis’ lobby, with 100% of proceeds going to Red Nose. The organization raises funds to help children living in poverty and since it started in 2015, it’s added up to more than $270 million dollars for over 29 million children around the world.
There’s also an auction for an original film cell from the first printing of the Love, Actually movie, signed by Curtis and available in silent auction (until end of the show’s run on Friday, December 31st) HERE. And donations are also accepted at rednoseday.org/donate.
Another way to experience Love Actually-themed cheer? A perfect holiday dinner before the show. As the film is set in London, the nearby L’Ermitage Beverly Hills has partnered with the production to create a fully immersive evening featuring a traditional English holiday dinner or high tea at its restaurant Avec Nous. The menu includes mince pies, pigs in a blanket, turkey and Yorkshire pudding, and the ambiance is luxurious and cozy with dazzling decor throughout including Christmas trees and blankets of lights. Read more about L’Erimtage’s packages for this event in our food section.
Love Actually Live, now thru Dec. 31 at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills. Tickets ($39-$125) and info at 310-746-4000 or TheWallis.org/Love.
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