Laurie Dyer, director of Spotlight Theatre’s I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, guarantees that somewhere in the show you will see yourself, your partner, your children or your parents. Perhaps this is part of the reason this Off-Broadway show has been so successful, notching up nine years and more than 3,000 performances in New York, and now extending hilarity all over the world.
The show is about relationships. It’s about everything from first date to first baby, family road-trips, divorce, watching the footy, and still loving your partner of 30 years. And it translates exceptionally well to Australia in this Queensland premiere, particularly with a teensy bit of judicious localising. This is a marvellous “first date” show.
There’s no plot line per se the musical comprises 18 songs with amusing sketches in-between. Heavyweight this show is not; it relies on (sometimes arch) humour in the first act to suck the audience in and then gently comes to its point in the final two delicious sketches: it’s our quirks and foibles that make love such a wonderful ride.
Originally this show was cast with four actors playing more than 40 characters; Spotlight decided to split the roles among eight performers for this season, a choice which initially had me wondering about how consistently the show would hang together, and whether the cast were “up to it” vocally and dramatically.
I shouldn’t have worried. The show barrels along beautifully, with regular shouts of laughter from the audience. By and large the cast are evenly matched, with nearly all the performers showing considerable vocal talent as well as solid comedic acting skills.
There are some stand-out performances. Dale Henderson’s “Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You” brings us up short in the second act, and poignantly reminds us that there is a serious side to love. His wonderful funeral sketch with a blue-haired Lynn Hudman is the best of the night but not by far, with James (“I’m not the boss”) Hutchinson showing us what a nightmare family outings can be, and Robyn Pihlamae brilliantly bemoaning life as a perpetual bridesmaid in the worst dress I have seen for a quite a while. Gillian Denny also deserves a big nod for her “divorcee dating tape” monologue.
I could keep going about the cast, but the production team also deserves much recognition, beginning with polished performances by musical director Wendy Berkelaar and her violinists, who keep the catchy melodies coming throughout. There were some minor issues with uneven amplification of the singers, but I’m certain these will be ironed out by the second performance.
Choreographer Iain Hogg has devised some sharp and sassy moves (the “wake soft-shoe” is perfect: we don’t know whether to laugh or cry), and he doesn’t overdo it. Similarly, the sets are necessarily minimal but effective, supporting the cast’s shenanigans rather than upstaging them.
This musical will have Queensland audiences returning to the theatre. Brisbaneites should make the effort to visit Spotlight and see what musical theatre is really like; Gold Coastians who already know what an asset this team is to the theatre world should guard them jealously.