By: Iris Wiener
The new, updated version of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, needs to do anything but change. The off-Broadway hit musical, which ran from 1996 through 2008 for a remarkable 5,003 performances, has been revamped to reflect the current marriage of technology and dating, as well as the many ways in which social media and apps subsume love and family. In a rare feat, Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro’s book and lyrics and Jimmy Roberts’ music is as fresh, affecting and delightfully funny as it was when it debuted 21 years ago.
From “Googling” someone before meeting them for a date, to weathering parents’ opinions about love lives (or lack thereof), I Love You includes something relatable for everyone. The universality of the themes is engaging and unitive, while the uplifting, playful music marks it as especially creative and memorable. A series of vignettes covering everything from crushes, dating, marriage, babies and bereavement, I Love You is a director’s dream: a canvas filled with four actors awaiting exceptional vision. George Street Playhouse’s Artistic Director David Saint is nothing short of brilliant in the way he orchestrates Charlie Williams’ choreography, quick costume changes, and transformative nature of each scene. Coupled with Jim Youmans’ innovative projections and scenic design, the show is appealing both thematically and aesthetically.
Some might consider the show safe within its stereotypical pathos, but its execution and ability to connect with its audience make it truly special. The actors slide fluidly from movie theatres to restaurants to shopping malls, transforming as seamlessly as the sets. Every performance is extraordinary; look for George Merrick’s (Clever Little Lies) hysterical lament over his frustration over being dragged to the latest chick flick, and his heart-tugging diatribe with Lindsay Nicole Chambers as they play an elderly pair who make a connection at a funeral. “I Can Live with That” is an 11 o’clock number that won’t soon be forgotten. Chambers (Lysistrata Jones) is exceptional in her fast-paced Act II opener “Always a Bridesmaid,” in which she reviews the contents of her closet, bewailing, “All those husbands are gone, but those dresses live on.” Get ready for the waterworks when Mitchell Jarvis (Rock of Ages) breaks into “The Baby Song,” contemplating the change in his and his husband’s persona after they become fathers. (Though it should be noted that the images behind him in this scene are a bit cringe worthy- teddy bears geared up for S&M? Not necessary.) Karen Burthwright’s (Jesus Christ Superstar) divorcee in a scene titled “The First Dating Video of Rose Ritz” is a perfect exhibit of Joe DiPietro’s talent for enmeshing humor (the dating site is called “EndoftheRoad.com) with poignancy.
It is possible that those scenes that have not been updated still pack the most powerful punches, and that is not to the show’s detriment. Mentions of Trump, Twitter and Tinder allow for a more contemporary feel, especially when coupled with a number about men sending dick pics as a viable way to impress women. However, the heart of I Love You lies in its timeless sentiment, such as Jarvis’ “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You?” an aside as a middle-aged husband considers his wife and their standard lives. There is no question as to why I Love You has withstood the test of time, and with a fresh coat of paint at George Street Playhouse’s new, intimate home, it is clear that the endearing musical is here to stay.
The George Street Playhouse’s interim venue while its regular location is being transformed into a new performing arts center is 103 College Farm Road. Visit www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org for more information.
Follow Iris Wiener on Twitter @Iris_Wiener or visit her at www.IrisWiener.com. Photography: T. Charles Erickson