I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a comedy about the joys and pitfalls of relationships, love, sex and everything in between. Unfamiliar with its long history (and success) Off-Broadway, the title itself was enough to intrigue me to see a show that begins with the nerve-racking experience of dating and ends with the funny but touching portrayal of love that strikes at a funeral. There were no connections between the different scenes and their characters, but the script nevertheless guides the performance seamlessly from one story to another. But as kooky as it sounds, the real success of Love, Perfect, Change lies in its purpose: to good-humouredly guide the audience through the adventures of trying to find love (and, as the songs often pointed out, not to end up alone).
Perhaps one of the most tantalising things about seeing this loud and up-beat musical performed at the rather intimate and sparsely decorated Bridewell Theatre is that it was clearly designed for the Off-Broadway stage on which it was originally performed more than a decade ago. But surprisingly, the small space provided an intense and personal atmosphere, which only heightened the bright and bubbly performances of the energetic cast, brilliantly directed by Amy Cooke-Hodgson.
Eight actors alternated the parts of parents, first-time daters, couples who are never able to spare a moment for sex because of their annoying children and even elderly widowers looking for company at a wake. This definitely required versatile performers who could quickly switch from character to character especially since the sparse set, by Lucy Hamilton, didn’t provide many additional props to work with. The audience was therefore able to experience romantic situations taking place in a cinema, the living room of hopeful parents, a bedroom, a dating centre and a tennis court – all of which came to life against a black background of three panels and a few props and costumes. To create further familiarity, the show ultimately relied on the clichés that it represented to allow the audience to identify with the subject matter and see its humour. Therefore, we came across the desperate girl waiting for her date to call her, or the parents whose vocabulary has diminished ever since the arrival of their first child. These stereotypes did manage to make us laugh because of the strong script and the enthusiasm of the performers, but nevertheless there is a sense that the musical is slightly passé. Songs such as ‘Always a Bridesmaid’, delivered confidently by Rachel Lea-Gray, provoked laughter among the audience because of their witty lines (“Well, I’ve walked down the aisle as much as Liz Taylor, but I’ve always stood off to the side”), but remained nevertheless reinventions of romantic personas we have come to know well through the accumulation of rom-coms throughout the years.
This was, in fact, both a flaw and a good quality in the piece: we laughed because we were familiar with the situations which were presented to us, but the comedy in Love, Perfect, Change is so obviously familiar that we could no longer appreciate it as a collection of original and perceptive observations on romance. The material of this piece has become a little out-dated, reminiscent of the romantic comedies of the nineties. Moreover, while I, as a younger viewer, was able to enjoy the performance, this musical is clearly aimed at an older audience, experienced in marriage and the dreaded mid-life crisis. The songs and themes in Love, Perfect, Change have therefore retained their momentum for older audience members, and it is possible to discern a distinct barrier between generations, particularly as younger audiences seem to react better to unexpected twists or turnaround situations which sadly do not exist in this feel-good musical.
However, what keeps Love, Perfect, Change afloat in modern theatre is its fundamental message to its audience: that we are trying to find compassion in this world. The title of the musical indicates this perfectly: love, according to creators Joe Dipietro and Jimmy Roberts seems to be less about constancy, and more about our ability to find those who are on the same wave length as us – in other words, those who understand us. Since we are constantly changing, we assume our partners should change with us as well.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is playing at the Bridewell Theatre until 17th September. For more information and tickets, see the Bridewell Theatre website.