Professional Theatre For Maine

Fall In Love At The Public Theatre

Posted on 04/23/2013 12:00am

Is it ever too late to find love? The answer is a resounding “no” in The Last Romance, the heartwarming romantic comedy about the thrill and complications of love in the later years, now playing at The Public Theatre May 3 - 12.

Widower Ralph Bellini has a life filled with routine, but life is suddenly a thrill again when he takes a new route on his walk home and spies a lovely lady in a dog park. The traditional ways to woo a woman may be chocolate and roses, but Ralph is no ordinary suitor. Using a few operatic arias and a bar or two of rap music, Ralph puts his heart on his sleeve and leaps headfirst into a last chance at romance.

Director Janet Mitchko says “this heartwarming comedy takes a thoughtful, honest look at the transformative power of love. It puts teenage-style crushes in the hearts of people over 60, and reminds us that love happens at every age.” She guarantees it will send you home with a smile on your face and a lump in your throat.

The Last Romance is a new comedy by Joe DiPietro, the author of Over the River and Through the Woods, and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Although The Last Romance is not a musical, it is peppered with songs from various operas that will be sung by Jason Phillips. It’s also the first time a live animal will appear on-stage at The Public Theatre when Charlie the Chihuahua makes his debut, as the ugly little dog who brings this couple together.

Playing the charming suitor Ralph Bellini will be Broadway actor, PJ Benjamin. Audiences may recognize him from the Broadway show Wicked where he’s spent the past five years playing the Wizard, or prior to that as the lovable Mr. Cellophane in the long running Broadway show Chicago opposite stars such as Melanie Griffith and Brooke Shields. Other Broadway shows in Mr. Benjamin’s history include: Pippin; Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies; the Tony Award winning play Torch Song Trilogy; Charlie in the musical Charlie and Algernon (Los Angles critics award), The Pajama Game directed by George Abbott; Wind in the Willows; Ain’t Broadway Grand and Sarava. He may also be familiar to younger audiences as the voice of Sergeant Dodo Bird in the animated film, Ice Age.

Playing Carol Reynolds, the target of his amorous attention will be Broadway veteran Louisa Flaningam. Public Theatre audiences may remember Louisa from her delightful work several years ago in TPT’s record-breaking comedy Southern Comforts. In her 40 plus years “on the boards”, she’s played a variety of roles from Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath to Fastrada in Bob Fosse’s Pippin (National Tour). On Broadway, she was Cleo in the 1979 revival of The Most Happy Fella, also telecast on PBS; and General Cartwright in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls. She also appeared as Aunt March in the National Tour of Little Women, as Meg in Damn Yankees with Tony Randall, in Pal Joey with Lena Horne; and in I Love My Wife with The Smothers Brothers. Her favorite role however, is that of Mrs. PJ Benjamin. This talented real life couple is sure to set off sparks with their delightful chemistry in The Last Romance.

Playing the role of Rose, Ralph’s protective Italian sister will be Andrea Gallo. Andrea has appeared at The Public Theatre as one of the grandmothers in Over the River and Through the Woods, and most recently in The Language Archive.

The Last Romance is playing at The Public Theatre, Lewiston/Auburn’s Professional Theatre, May 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12. Show times are Thurs/Fri at 7:30, Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm, with an added Sat matinee on May 11 at 2pm. For tickets call 782-3200 or visit www.thepublictheatre.org for more information.