BWW Review: RENEE TAYLOR'S MY LIFE ON A DIET Shares Heartfelt Tales of her Trials and Tribulations as a Diet Tramp
To hear Renee Taylor tell it, her life has been a series of unplanned and often surprisingly rewarding experiences, mostly centered around her struggle to lose weight to fulfill her dream of being a sexy starlet, calling herself a Diet Tramp, meaning she "eats around." Thankfully, the lessons she shares at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts during the Los Angeles Premiere of RENÉE TAYLOR'S MY LIFE ON A DIET, prove to not only herself but every member in the audience that it is your heart on the inside that matters most, not what size you wear. Considered a comedy legend, she tells about her high and lows - on and off the scale - and shows audiences that the ability to laugh gets you through it all.
This award-winning, autobiographical comedy written by Taylor and Joseph Bologna, her dearly loved husband and comedy partner who passed away last year, takes us on a journey with the Academy Award-Nominated and Emmy Award-Winning Writer/Actress as she looks back on a life full of memorable roles in Hollywood, on Broadway, and her mother's influence on her childhood, especially her obsession with weight which led her to try more fad diets than I have heard about before. And each experience generated knowing laughter and applause from her appreciative audience.
Taylor, perhaps best known to modern audiences as the constantly-eating mother on "The Nanny" television series, remained seated at a lavishly appointed desk adorned with some of her favorite animal artifacts and family photos as she shared interactive tales of her life as a self-described "diet junkie" who believed that if she ate like a star, she just might look and live like one.
More than 250 personal photographs were displayed during the show as Taylor dished out juicy anecdotes about weight loss tips from such Hollywood legends as Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Barbra Streisand, each one even more silly than the last.
I especially enjoyed her memories of attending Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio during which time she became friends with some of the most well-regarded actresses before stardom took over their lives. Or perhaps it was her saucy tale of Lou Costello's "Meatball Diet" or her joke about how combining pineapple and baked beans led to her "Hawaiian Music Diet" that resonated the most with me, as did her tales of appearing 23 times on Jack Parr's The Tonight Show as well on The Perry Como Show.
According to Taylor, "A few years ago, I had the pleasure to work with my friend Nora Ephron on her wonderful play, 'Love, Loss, and What I Wore.' I told her that, as a woman who had worn every size from 4 to 18 over the years, my version of the play would be called 'Love, Loss, and What I Ate.' Well, this is that play, but I ended up calling it MY LIFE ON A DIET."
Her heartfelt, personal remembrances in the play, which was originally directed by Bologna, her partner in work and life for 52 years, made its New York premiere in 2018 just before he migrated to comedy heaven. And as a way to beautifully honor him and their love story, Taylor shared how she rose above the pain of his loss by sharing her heart and soul with others as a way to honor their dream of creating this award-winning show. Taylor even broke down in tears at the end of the performance when speaking about how much it means to her to have been able to write down everything and share it with her audience. If everyone could have hugged her at that moment, it would have been a perfect curtain call to her incredibly honest, funny and thoroughly entertaining solo show.
But be forewarned by the end, you just might be as hungry as I was!
RENÉE TAYLOR'S MY LIFE ON A DIET is currently on its national tour, presented by the production's producer Julian Schlossberg, with scenic and lighting design is by Harry Feiner, sound by Christopher Bond, costume design by Pol' Atteu, projections design by Michael Redman, under the guidance of production manager Inga McLaughlin and general manager Richard Martin. Its Los Angeles Premiere continues through April 14, 2019, in The Lovelace Studio Theater.at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets are $65. To purchase tickets and for more information, please call 310-746-4000 or visit TheWallis.org/Diet.
12 performances only, run time 90 minutes without an intermission
Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 14, 2019
April 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 8 pm (weekdays);
April 6 and 13 at 2:30 and 8 pm (Saturdays);
April 7 and 14 at 2:30 and7:30 pm (Sundays)
Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel