The increased popularity of cooking shows has paved the way for adventurous theaters to put on plays that experiment with food prep as live entertainment.
Cooking serves as the way of life in Cooking with the Calamari Sisters, a comedically chaotic "live broadcast" of a cooking show at the Society Hill Playhouse. And a young couple in love bonds while making linguine on stage in a new musical adaptation of Love Story at the Walnut Street Theatre.
If juggling love is one thing, juggling lyrics, melodies, and pasta ingredients in a live performance is quite another.
The Walnut is staging the American premiere of Love Story, based on the 1970 best-selling novel and film, through Oct. 21.
The first scene of Jenny Cavilleri (Alexandra Silber) and Oliver Barrett IV (Will Reynolds) as a married couple is set in the kitchen, where they perform an intricately choreographed cooking scene to the song "Pasta" (though, Barrett sighs, he would prefer lovemaking over pasta-making).
The speed of their singing matches their movements as they prepare linguine - the boiling, the draining, the dicing, the slicing - all in four minutes (using fresh pasta, of course).
Silber comes from a cooking-savvy family, "so it wasn't a stressful transition," she assures.
Everything in the scene is real, the puffs of steam and the aroma of onions from the propane range being the only stage and sound effects.
Although they stayed true to the art of cooking, they did take a shortcut by using pre-boiled water so it would boil faster during the actual scene.
Of course, Silber has come across a few kitchen complications. The boiling water has overflowed onto her arm, the tomato sauce wouldn't open so she had to stab it - she's seen it all.
"But it never feels like an issue, just a challenge."
And she's always careful not to get too "handsy" with herself during her emotional scenes.
"I stay onstage after this scene until the end of the show, and since I have jalapeño and onion on my hands, I have to be careful not to wipe my eyes or nose if I cry," she says with a laugh.
At the end of the scene, the couple eats the product of their hard work. But the stage lovers aren't the only ones who get to taste the linguine. After the food is brought backstage, their fellow actors often eat the pasta in the green room.
"Once, somebody even put a note in the green room requesting they use sweeter peppers since the current ones were too spicy," Walnut Street Theatre's communications manager Amy Rodgers said.
Society Hill Playhouse is also taking on a creative culinary challenge with the popular Calamari Sisters, the quirky show that began its run in Rochester, N.Y., in 2009 and has been playing to consistently sold-out audiences since. (It runs here through Nov. 4.)
Jay Falzone and Stephen Smith, cocreators and the original male actors who play the two lively sisters Delphine and Carmela Calamari, sing and dance while they make three dishes during their humorous cooking show. The audience also gets a taste of the cannoli.
The performance, which includes some audience participation, was "very difficult because the food is a pain in the ass, frankly," cocreator Dan Lavender laughs. "It is a legitimate musical theater piece. They sing, they dance - these are Broadway performers, not chefs."
The actors got training at the Culinary Institute of America to learn skills such as how to properly use a knife.
To avoid unnecessary hazards, the creators chose some dishes that did not require heat. But it hasn't all been smooth simmering.
"One time, Carmela was moving one of the cutting boards, and a meat cleaver started to slip toward her foot. So she kind of aborted missions and dropped the whole damn thing," Falzone said. "But at least she has all her toes."
Makes 60 mini cannolis
60 mini cannoli shells
64 ounces fresh, smooth-curd ricotta cheese (make sure you don't use the large curd)
16 ounces powdered sugar
2 tablespoons good vanilla extract (for a more "adult" version, use 1 tablespoon Amaretto, 1 tablespoon vanilla)
Dash of seeds from vanilla bean
1. Mix cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl. Put mixture into pastry bag, fill cannoli shells.
2. Sprinkle powdered sugar over as garnish.
- Per serving (based on 30): 215 calories, 9 grams protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, 22 milligrams cholesterol, 114 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber.EndText
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 Italian long hot pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and diced
2 fresh roma tomatoes, diced
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
A generous pinch of dry oregano (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound fresh linguini
About 2 whole fresh basil leaves (chopped)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
1. Fully coat pan in olive oil. Bring to full heat. Saute pepper, onion, and garlic until al dente. Add roma tomatoes, then add can of tomatoes, stirring all the while. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lastly, add oregano.
2. Bring pasta water to a boil. Add fresh pasta to water.
3. Strain and drain pasta. Place in bowl. Add sauce on top and finish with Parmesan and fresh basil to taste.