Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts.  Presented by Queanbeyan City Council at The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, directed by Stephen Pike; musical director: Lucy Bermingham; choreographer: Annette Sharpe; set designer: Brian Sudding; costume designer: Christine Pawlicki; lighting: Hamish McConchie; sound: Evan Wythes.  Wednesday – Sunday April 24 – May 5, 2013-04-25

Reviewed by Frank McKone
April 24

This is an up-front musical, quite explicit on matters sexual (and a few other bodily functions), very American culturally speaking, mostly very funny and occasionally touching.

It’s also very well-known, having reached Queanbeyan after productions in more than 400 other cities in at least USA, Britain, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Holland, Hungary, Czech Republic, South Korea, Italy, Brazil, South Africa, Ireland, Argentina, Germany, Hong Kong, mainland China and Taipei, as well as Sydney and its original run of 5003 performances in the off-Broadway Westside Theatre.  This production certainly stands up very well in this company, if the various You Tube efforts I’ve viewed represent the standard.

First is the music.  Lucy Bermingham on the grand, Vanessa Driver, violin, and Jason Henderson, bass, captured each of the American musical styles perfectly for each song, and for the interludes as scenes shifted from one vignette to the next.  Quality here gave the edge to the singing, lifting the performers – Dave Evans, Jenna Roberts, Christine Forbes, Krystle Innes, Nick Valois and Greg Sollis – often to an operatic level, which gave the stereotyped characters in many scenes an extra dimension.

Add to the music a wonderful sense of comedy in Annette Sharpe’s choreography, and precision in the timing which showed Stephen Pike’s strong direction, and we ended up with a show better than might be expected from what is, after all, not much more than a series of revue sketches.  The greatest depth, though, welled up unexpectedly – but wonderfully – in the non-singing scene “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz”.  Jenna Roberts was awarded a special round of applause for her characterisation showing guts and integrity in a very vulnerable Rose.

At a different end of the spectrum was the performance of Ted, the bear, as he cheerfully but in a certain sense rather sadly waved us goodbye, manipulated by Nick Valois, as the father reverting to childhood.  Very nice work.

I think a reason behind the success of this Australian production is that we are not Americans.  There was some discussion during interval about the decision to use American accents, but in the second half the culture, perhaps especially of the American Jewish characters, is so specific that Australian voices just would not do.  What we have to offer, instead, is a view of these characters from the outside looking in, and a picture of the absurdity of their behaviour against what we would expect in our culture.

The result is more than a humorous reflection on love and marriage, but a more biting level of comedy approaching satire.  In other words, more satisfying theatre rather than mere light-hearted entertainment.  Some of those You Tube videos seem to present the latter and miss out on the former.  Much of the script and the libretto can easily fall into the guffaw laughter trap, but scenes in this production – such as Christine Forbes’ country and western “Always a Bridesmaid” and Dave Evans’ and Jenna Roberts’ “Marriage Tango” – showed what an Australian perspective could bring to this American life.

So gird your loins and see for yourself at The Q.