The first reaction to “Love Life” (before even watching the Encores! 15-minute video about it with Kate Baldwin and Brian Stokes Mitchell below) has to be: Where have you been all my life?
A musical written by Alan Jay Lerner (who went on to “My Fair Lady”) and Kurt Weill (“Three Penny Opera”), directed by Elia Kazan (“A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Death of a Salesman”) and choreographed by Michael Kidd (“Guys and Dolls,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”), the original 1948 Broadway production starred Ray Middleton and Nanette Fabray as a married couple who span the entire history of the United States of America, starting in 1791. As the years progress, the marriage – and America – decline.
The show ran for seven months, and disappeared, without even a cast recording (due to a musician’s strike at the time) New York City Center’s Encores! was planning to revive it..in March, 2020. It had to be postponed. In the meantime, we have this “Encores! Inside the Revival” video, with director Victoria Clark explaining how she was going to stage it, Jack Viertel and Rob Berman talking about its history, and seven actors performing songs from it.
One important omission in the video below: New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson didn’t like it, calling it “cute, complex and joyless – a general gripe masquerading as entertainment…an intellectual idea about showmanship gone wrong”To be fair, Atkinson also praised Weill’s “versatile score, with agreeable music in so many moods — hot,comic, blue, satiric and romantic” – and other critics, even at the time, were entranced with the whole enterprise: “A dream of a show about the American dream; sentimental, hopeful, satirical, ironic and even bitter . . . All the illusions, the errors, the faults which have punctured the American dream of domestic bliss are exposed in hilarity and high spirits.” (Boston Post); “the most intelligent and adult musical yet offered on the American stage . . . a sheer delight” (New York Telegraph) “