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« In Which Emma Lavery Captures The Hearts of Millions | Main | This Show Is Heartbreaking. Interpret That As You Please. »

March 21, 2011

Soapy Italian Weddings and One Good Thing About Todd Manning

Last week, One Life to Live gave us torturous scene after scene in which the people in his life stood by Todd before and after his surgery begging him to come back, sniffling and crying all over the place about how horrible it would be if he died without the daughter he verbally and psychologically abused making sure he knows how sorry she is that he verbally and psychologically abused her. None of them could come up with one single redeeming characteristic of his, and so all of them collectively decided that they love the fact that he treats them all monstrously and cannot wait for him to regain consciousness so he can come back and continue to abuse them all in various ways. This was a little funny the first time since, well, he's a lead character on the show whose love life we're supposed to be invested in and whose survival we're intended to care about and even the very writers who ask us to show such interest cannot think of a good reason why. The first time. Then it became more and more tedious as it became clearer that we were meant to find this somehow endearing. "Dad, Dad, please come back so I can fear for my life at your hand again!" ADORABLE.

His daughter Starr has been bland and vapid for years now and has lost most of what made her interesting. His daughter Dani is played by a talented actress, but that doesn't really help the fact that the character exists primarily to yell and cry. His son Jack has always been a jerk (albeit a funny one in the past) but is now evolving into a full-scale instigating bully and is played by a newcomer who seems miserably uncomfortable in his skin. So that leaves us with what is now One Good Thing About Todd Manning. 


His youngest son, Sam. So freaking cute. I want to take this kid to the zoo. And really, it's renewed my optimism and faith in humanity. You'd think the biological child of two sociopath rapists wouldn't be so damn adorable. But you'd be wrong.


'Cause he's so damn adorable. I don't know if you'd noticed. Just saying. He's a patootie. In his little collared shirt and his little glasses and his little jacket. I mean just in case you weren't sure...


Ridiculous. If I had a biological clock, this kid might kick it into gear for at least eleven or twelve minutes. I'm not even kidding. Eleven or twelve. And so there we have it, the one good thing that has come out of this huge waste-of-time storyline in which TODD GETS SHOT AND OMG WILL HE MAKE IT WILL HE DIE WILL HE SQUEEZE SOMEONE'S HAND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT!


So last week, the Off-Broadway play My Big Gay Italian Wedding had a special "Soap Actresses Week" in which a gaggle of soap stars filled in for the week in some of the usual roles. Ilene Kristen (Roxy) has actually been a regular member of that cast for a couple of months now (and continues into next month), but the special week also added Kristen Alderson (Starr), Brittany Underwood (Langston), Ellen Dolan (formerly Margo on ATWT), and Marnie Schulenberg (formerly Alison on ATWT). On Friday night (and perhaps another night as well, but I think it was just a one-time deal), Melissa Archer (Natalie) also appeared in it briefly.

So... I went. Now, let me first say that I do not understand this kind of theatre. I know it exists, I know there's a market for it, and I think that's great -- I'm all for theatre in any form staying alive and kicking and getting people in seats. It is not my cup of tea. I don't get it. I am not the intended demographic for these sorts of plays. I tried to find out a little about the play and couldn't find much, honestly, so I don't really know how it works -- it only runs Thursdays through Saturdays every week and has been running since forever, and I'm not sure if it's one of those shows that has an eternally rotating cast and if some of it's improvised or changed week-to-week or what. Anthony J. Wilkinson, who is one of the directors for One Life to Live, wrote and stars in it. He clearly wrote it and performs in it with a hell of a lot of heart, even though its extremely broad humor is not my taste. Can I just say that he is adorable? Not Sam Manning adorable, but adorable nonetheless -- when I was trying to find some information I landed on his "It Gets Better" video in which he goes back to his Staten Island high school to speak to the kids about having been bullied as a child, and he is so cute and heartbreaking, and braver than I could ever be.

If you're even still reading my rambling thoughts, you're probably doing to so to actually hear about the soap stars in the show. So, some observations: Ilene Kristen rocked and was a clear audience favorite, but her role was basically a variation on her Roxy character, just with brown hair (this isn't a criticism -- it's very much exactly what the role calls for). They did throw in a few extra lines to do a few meta soap jokes, and she got one in which her character was heading off to go watch "that freak Roxy on One Life to Live." She also basically flashed the audience while dancing at one point and asked them if they were all right (with drippingly sincere concern) about it, which cracked me up.

Marnie Schulenberg was cute but did not have a huge role, and Ellen Dolan was fantastic, but of course I don't know from As the World Turns. My favorite little soapy joke of the night, though, was that during the wedding vows, one of the characters was describing their first date and how he knew this was "the one" because in the middle of their date he got the news that As the World Turns was canceled, and the other guy was so sympathetic and supported him through his grief. 

As the sister of the groom, Kristen Alderson did a competent job (and a nice accent), but her comic timing was off. The big news of the night (for me anyway) was that Brittany Underwood did a great job as a Snookie-esque loud-mouthed lesbian. Very funny and very good with the physical comedy. (She also got the juicy Charlie Sheen joke.) It got me a little excited about what the future holds for her; I think she's very well-suited to broad stage work.

Because I am what I am, I spent some of the play more interested in how their fellow OLTL-ers in the audience were reacting to things, and I will say that I did catch Jason Tam (ex-Markko) cracking a grin when Brittany Underwood and Marnie Schulenberg had their big makeout moment. Cute!

Melissa Archer didn't have much to do -- they just had her play herself, filling in to officiate the wedding when the minister didn't show up, so she really just had a few basic lines and didn't have much interaction with anyone. (The wedding planner asked her how Liam's doing and she said, "Fine, fine, just wondering who the father is.") While there's not much to say about her in terms of the play itself, it was the first time I'd ever seen her in person and sweet damn she is breathtaking. Obviously the woman is pretty, but she was something else altogether. And has a hell of a set of gams.

For those of you who have hung on this long even though I stopped actually writing about One Life to Live about forty paragraphs ago, you're too kind. Did anyone else go to this? Did anyone hear about it? I feel like they could've gotten a much bigger crowd out for the occasion, but I barely heard a thing about it in soap or theatre press.

And with that, Destiny out!


You are so right, Sam is adorable and I miss the old Jack Manning (the little jerk)!

I was so glad that Starr told Dani to STFU! It was about time that someone told Dani to stuff it.

I also enjoyed Starr telling Dani to shut up. But then, I've been wanting somebody to tell Starr to shut up for years. And now that she's moved on from Mr. Potato Head to Howdy Doody, I'd love her to shut up even more. It's funny that the only kid of Todd's who is even tolerable is the spawn of Mad Margaret. Poor Blair deserves better!

Blows my mind that the casting department does such a great job with babies (Sierra Rose, Liam, Ryder) and child actors (Sam, Matthew, Starr, Shane), but come time to cast teens and older, it becomes all about Justin Beiber hair and abs and not talent. nuJack is the terrible in what is already a bad storyline.

I love your theater tidbits, Louise. I feel like I read that Scott Evans did "My Big Gay Italian Wedding" a few years ago too.

C, yes, Scott Evans was definitely in that -- back in '09, I believe. Wish I'd seen him in it!

While I'm not impressed with NuJack as of yet, I'm still trying to cut him a break. He's clearly unseasoned but given the way soaps go he probably doesn't even get much rehearsal time AND he's been thrown in the middle of a 'socially relevant' story that he's being made to carry with a small handful of other unseasoned nobodies.

Plus, every time Blair hugs him I get the feeling he's trying to stop himself from getting a willful teenaged boner because his TV Mom is ridiculously hot.

But yes, Sam is still adorable and one of the better dressed characters in Llanview. He may have come out of Margaret but he's all Blair's.

I declare Sam Manning to be the only Manning child I love.

I, too, loved Starr telling Dani to shut up. I just...I do not care about this girl-child and don't understand why she exists. IA that Kelly Missal is really talented, but I just can't take Dani when she starts yelling just like her mother.

NuJack......no. Just no.

As much as I love Kristen Alderson, I'm sorry, I've seen much better work from her over the years and as much as it pains me to say, maybe she should stay current on acting classes. She did really good with the part where she shut Dani up, but that's the most life I've seen in her in a while.

It just says something when the little actor playing Sam outshined the rest of the kids. I think he's the absolute cutest with Blair.

As someone who really enjoyed the character of Todd and was so fully engrossed in the execution storyline, can he be put out of his (and my) misery already? I don't care about his life hanging in the balance.

Sam is adorable. But he isn't the only one since Johnny from Days is adorable too. I miss the old Jack and as for this one I wish he was the one in the hospital in the coma instead.

@Barbara: Johnny is absolutely adorable on DOOL.

Sam is adorable too. I thought it was kind of a milestone moment in Friday's ep to have all 4 of the Manning kids and both of Todd's wives in the same scene. Twice in one episode. Even though I don't really care about this particularly storyline since putting Todd in mortal danger and watching his family blubber about him (and them probably attempting for the umpteenth time to redeem him) will not make me rethink my stance on him and come to like like him as a character one iota.

I don't watch OLTL anymore so I won't comment on that but I love hearing about the play. I enjoy soap actors in different roles and am always happy to hear when they get other gigs. Most soap actors are great. A shame more people didn't know about it. You are right soap fans are loyal and would come out! I saw Jack and Dixie from AMC doing a play years ago and it was great fun. Walt Willey and Cady McCain were terrific!

Sam is so freaking adorable. I wish that we would get more scenes with him.

I really love Sam. He's so cute and adorable!

He's really good.

The little boy is so cute and very handsome.

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