"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the frothy, frequently staged revue about relationships that opened Wednesday at Lincolnshire's Marriott Theatre, may not be a perfect show.
But it is a perfect show for summer.
Familiar, frequently humorous, occasionally touching and pleasantly undemanding, "I Love You/Change" has an accessible, middle-of-the-road, pop-centered score that flirts with country, blues and the tango (in a brief but memorable scene featuring a feather boa, shoulder pads and a sparkly, guffaw-inducing G- string).
I've seen this musical several times. But Marriott director/ choreographer Matt Raftery's fresh, very funny, zestfully performed production is the best I've encountered of the 1996 off-Broadway hit (updated with references to Zumba, social media and pop Princess Carly Rae Jepsen) which has become a suburban theater favorite. That fact wasn't lost on set designer Thomas M. Ryan whose projections offer a tip of the hat to such suburban mainstays as Sullivan's Steakhouse, the Sybaris and Wheeling's Kolssak Funeral Home.
And why not? Marriott introduced the musical by writer/lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts to Chicago area audiences in 1998. Chicago's Royal George Theatre opened its long-running version four years later. The show bowed at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights in 2006, and at Fox Valley Repertory in St. Charles in 2008. And that's not counting community theater productions.
So yes, this is a popular show. And not without reason. Most audience members will recognize themselves in the characters who appear in vignettes chronicling the often bumpy course of romance: from dating, to marriage and parenthood, to divorce and singlehood, to widowhood and back to dating again.
A pair of successful professionals tired of dating boors -- Johanna McKenzie Miller and Kelly Anne Clark (who co-starred in the original Marriott and the Royal George productions) -- lament the lack of eligible men in "Single Man Drought." In the doo-wop inspired "Hey There Single Gal/Guy" (an absolute hoot), parents played by Clark and Bernie Yvon express their disappointment in the breakup of their commitment-averse son and his career-obsessed girlfriend. Miller muses on bad dresses and broken marriages and concludes that it's better to live life on one's own terms in the twangy "Always a Bridesmaid." And Alex Goodrich delivers a heartfelt ode to enduring love in the tender "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love with You?"
Clark, Goodrich, Miller and Yvon -- ably accompanied by conductor/ pianist Patti Garwood and violinist Steve Winkler -- are terrific. Not only are they strong singers, but they're great comedians and character actors as well.
As for the most touching moment, that belongs to Clark, who plays a middle-aged woman attempting online video dating after her husband left her for another woman, an experience she likens to open heart surgery without anesthesia. Clark's irresistible, deer-in-the- headlights expression -- coupled with an endearing combination of fear and resolve -- is the perfect fusion of pathos and humor. It's also an affecting testament to resilience, and the capacity of hopeful romantics everywhere to believe that love awaits.
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