Jill Weinlein, Chief Los Angeles Critic
Last night I laughed throughout the autobiographical comedy by Academy Award nominated and Emmy Award winning writer and actress Renée Taylor. Written by Taylor and her late husband Joseph Bologna, this one-woman show MY LIFE ON A DIET was originally directed by Bologna, and made its New York premiere in 2018. With such critical acclaim, Taylor’s show was extended to run Off-Broadway at the Theatre at St. Clements and now has embarked on a national tour. In November of last year, the show won the annual United Solo Special Award for their significant contributions to solo theater during the year.
Currently in the intimate Lovelace Studio Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center, the set by Harry Feiner is decorated with muted animal skin rugs, a large projection screen, a fancy desk and chair where Ms. Taylor sits at during most of the show.
She comes out dressed in an elegant rose gold sequin outfit from her neck down to her tennis shoes by costumer Pol’ Atteu. It’s almost as if the audience is sitting in her home theatre while watching a slide show. With each story she shares, a still projection or video clip gives us a peek into the life of a Hollywood star.
Now in her 80s, this adorable curly haired blonde reflects on how she was groomed by her wanna-be movie star mother to be the next Betty Hutton. Her momma encouraged her to lose weight starting at the age of 11. “My mother was concerned I was built like a sugar cube,” said Taylor, so she believed that if she ate like a star, she might look and live like one.
Throughout the 90 minute show we learn Taylor loves food, and she also loves the sound of applause, which began after appearing in her first school play. She dishes out juicy anecdotes about how she and her mother got an autograph from Hollywood legends, such as Joan Crawford. A photo of Crawford appears on the large screen, as does one of her classmate Marilyn Monroe. Both Taylor and Monroe learned Method Acting with the legendary Lee Strasberg. Taylor was a student for 8 years, until she owed Strasberg so much money in tuition, that she had to get a job as a working actress.
She and Barbra Streisand shared stockings while working at the same nightclub together. She had an ongoing gig on the Tonight Show with Jack Parr and the Perry Como show. While on the show, she met Jerry Lewis and was cast in her first Hollywood movie “Errand Boy.”
We learn that she dated Lenny Bruce before he overdosed on heroin, and reunited with her friend Marilyn Monroe two months before she was found dead.
The show is entertaining and poignant, especially as it ends with stories about her late partner for 53 years Joe Bologna. They met and married in six months. Together they loved working together, appearing in a slew of successful shows including “Lovers and Other Strangers” and “Made for Each Other.”
This comedy legend shares her high and lows while losing and gaining weight. At the end, when she was cast in “The Nanny,” Taylor’s comic timing as the fun, food loving mother Sylvia Fine earned audience approval. The success made her realize that the ability to make people laugh is better than being super skinny. The ability to write down her story and share it with an audience is a dream come true for this beautiful actress.
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Presents the Los Angeles Premiere of RENÉE TAYLOR’S MY LIFE ON A DIET
Limited Engagement – 12 Performances Only
Friday, April 5 to Sunday, April 14, 2019, at the
Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Ticket price $65