The Sublime Cult of Love Codependent

“Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit….” With tagline styled after the title of a late 60’s book about s-e-x, cabaret-style musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change presents a fast-paced string of scenes focused on the trials of heterosexual coupling from a mostly humorous perspective. Wikipedia claims “of the shows currently open off-Broadway in 2008, it is the longest-running”. It premiered in 1996 at New York City’s Westside Theatre and has never closed. It’s garnered over $60 million worldwide in ticket sales and survived translation into thirteen languages including Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Czech, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, German, Catalan, Finnish and Mandarin.

Local success verges on cult worship. Jac Alder first mounted it main-stage to open the 2000-2001Theatre Three season. It moved to a rejuvenated Theatre Too slot, where it ran continuously for three years, through July 2003. Its current incarnation, directed handily by T3 Musical Director and Company Manager Terry Dobson, runs through February 15, with special Valentine’s Day champagne performances. Asked about differences between the first production and today’s, Costume Designer Bruce Coleman comments that some original costume pieces are still in the show, although “this is a much TALLER cast than the original.”

The tightly integrated, taller cast includes Equity members Bradley Campbell, Gary Floyd, Lindsey Holloway and Lisa J. Miller. Individually, they depict unforgettable characters; singing ensemble or duet, their voices blend pleasingly and professionally, with superior enunciation and well-modulated tones. Musicians Vonda Bowling and Pamela Holcomb McClain keep the tempo hopping on the piano placed stage right in full audience view. Most memorable performances were solos on Opening Night: Campbell’s beguilingly droll toying with “The Baby Song” and Holloway’s wickedly lustful anticipatory “I Will Be Loved Tonight.”

This show begs for in-the–round staging, probably part of the reason for its initial 2000 inclusion. Unfortunately, the narrow, elongated space of Theatre Too restricts the natural flow from one vignette to the next, diminishes the overall magic of the piece and punishes the audience. I sat directly behind a tall woman with a mane of blonde hair. Limited by the tight seating and blondie’s looming presence, I missed important stage business, no matter how much I tried to peer around. The play’s humor comes across dated, akin to TV sit-coms like “Will and Grace” and “Friends.” It ranges from cloying to cavalier to callous, with doses of gender stereo-typing. Act II engages in a more nuanced, adult manner, a relief from the gag-scripted superficiality of Act I. Thanks to the strong cast, impeccably directed with fluent musicianship, it’s still a very entertaining show. Judging by the guffaws and chortles coming from the full house audience opening night, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change will enjoy another successful run at Theatre Three. Surely welcome news in belt-tightening times.

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