A Quarantined Theater Critic Recaps Hallmark's In the Key of Love, Starring Laura Osnes
The musical movie, starring Osnes and Scott Michael Foster, had a surprise television premiere over the weekend after being shelved by the network in June.
To paraphrase Fraulein Maria, "when coronavirus closes a door, somewhere it opens a window." And through that window, during our first weekend of social isolation, burst forth two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes warbling In the Key of Love.
If you can't quite place that title, I'm referring to Osnes's auspicious Hallmark movie debut, which tragically slipped through the cracks following its semi-failure-to-launch back in a time lost to all memory: June 2019.
The music-infused, made-for-TV movie — following the will-they-won't-they romance between wedding photographer Maggie Case (Osnes) and her former boyfriend and singing partner Jake Colby (Scott Michael Foster) — was initially slated to air on Hallmark Channel on June 29, 2019, as part of the network's June Wedding series (because as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers taught us, "when you get married in June, you will always be a bride"). However, at the last minute, some garbage movie called Sister of the Bride took its slot and In the Key of Love was relegated to an August launch on Hallmark's streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now.
Now…was I disappointed I wasn't going to be able to watch Broadway's favorite princess romantically duet with that hottie from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to generic country tunes? Absolutely. Was I disappointed enough to pay $5 a month for another streaming service? Absolutely not. Few things in life are that distressing (and most of them have only surfaced in the last nine days).
And yet — wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles — Hallmark took a Broadway fan by the hand and gave In the Key of Love its official network premiere at 9pm ET on Saturday, March 21. Because even a Hallmark exec knows that nothing soothes a socially distant soul better than an acoustic Laura Osnes.
Since no one is venturing far from their couch in the foreseeable future, allow me to paint a clear picture of what you can now enjoy on demand through your cable provider or catch in an encore presentation next Saturday, March 28, at 7pm, or Sunday, March 29, at 2pm.
I've arguably already dropped about 95 percent of the necessary information — because let's be real, there's no such thing as a spoiler in a Hallmark movie: Boy meets (or re-meets) girl. Boy annoys girl (and vice versa). Boy charms girl (and vice versa). Boy and girl kiss and/or wed. But of course, its the details that separate the wheat from the chaff. So here are a few of those.
In the Key of Love promptly allocates the role of tightly wound overachiever to the nevertheless dreamy Jake Colby, whose oppressive mansplaining tendencies led to the disintegration of Colby & Case, a duo destined for stardom. After their breakup, both professional and romantic, Jake turned to music-producing, and two short years later, is on the brink of releasing his first surefire hit album by superstar Ashleigh Z (her name is spelled with a "gh" ─ she's clearly one of a kind).
Maggie, meanwhile, with her all-purpose artistic talent, has become a humble photographer for her grandmother's wedding business on Piedmont Island (which is indeed a real place, this isn't a Mamma Mia! "Kalokairi" situation). She doesn't sing much anymore, and she has to call her Nana by her first name Evelyn (there's a B plot about Nana's resistance to retirement), but life is peaceful on her isle of matrimony. Remember weddings? I don't.
Anyway, Jake and Maggie have clearly done an amazing job of avoiding social media because Maggie has no idea Jake's sister Jennifer is getting married…at her grandmother's wedding venue. And Jake has no idea that Maggie is his sister's wedding photographer…on a remote island with one wedding venue.
Jennifer and Evelyn proceed to do everything they can to get Colby & Case back together ─ in all senses. Evelyn makes her granddaughter take thousands of dollars of unnecessary photos of pre-wedding activities (a sweet deal for the happy couple, let me tell you), and plants Maggie's guitar at a campfire to elicit a starlit duet; and Jennifer pulls the "my brother doesn't have a salsa partner" trick during the obligatory matrimonial dance class. The devil works hard, but Jennifer and Evelyn work harder, amiright?
Of course there are also romantic adventures of Jake and Maggie's own making. No one asked the pair to hunt down replacement wedding flowers when the original ones perished in a tragic refrigerator accident. No one forced them onto a row boat in the middle of the night, which inevitably led to the classic "flirty capsize." And no one commissioned Maggie to repurpose an old Colby & Case song to fill the gap in Ashleigh Z's nearly terminated album.
But of course, when you love someone, you give them your intellectual property and send them off on a prestigious world tour. On the flipside, when you love someone, you also skip important work obligations to ferry back to a tiny island just in time for the second verse of a wedding duet you were about to bail on. In the end, we can be confident that love, fame, and music are ahead for Colby & Case. After all, it just took one magical week on Piedmont Island to make Jake less stressed, Maggie more ambitious, and the mixing of business and pleasure a good idea.
Did I have my heart set on more than two-and-a-half Colby & Case performances over the span of two hours (with commercials)? Very much. But was it still worth the eight-month wait? I'd say so — because lord knows the next time I'll get to see a Laura Osnes performance, and wow did that densely populated reception hall look luxurious.