Book and lyrics by Joe diPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts
When I was a small child, my grandmother was addicted to a radio serial called When a Girl Marries, which was dedicated to “all those who are in love, and all those who can remember”, where the announcer always stretched out the last word to infinity.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is thankfully not in the same sentimental genre, but its target audience is similar, which means just about everybody. But instead of schmaltz, this delicious little musical offers a sharp contemporary take on the mating game, and we laugh (and cry) with recognition at the full gamut of courtship rituals, from the first blind date to the late-blossoming second romance, and we know that this is life as we know it rather than some deeply-significant psychological treatise.
There have been many variations on this theme in theatrical history, but even a decade on, DiPietro and Roberts’ musical continues to draw audiences in.
Because it’s a people show, which shows us ourselves or at least that part of the population that considers itself mainstream. The heterosexual couple may have moved backstage in many artistic genres recently but, to paraphrase what has been said by other sexual-preference groups, these characters are here, they’re straight, so get used to it!
Nobody here is going to set the world on fire, but the humour is that of recognition, and not to be dismissed because of that. It mirrors to us the world of Neighbours and Home and Away rather than that of Straight Eye for the Queer Guy , but in the 30 or so combinations and permutations of two men and two women, it gives us the full thrust (and I use the word advisedly) of heterosexual experience.
And it’s funny. From the opening scene where a man and woman meet on a blind date and decide that to save time they’ll skip the first date, the first kiss and the first bonk, go through quarrels and divorce and splitting up, all within the space of five minutes, we know we’re in for a quizzical look at modern relationships.
Although there’s no linear narrative, and the four actors play many different roles, there is a kind of chronological progression, so after young love, courtship, marriage and children, teenagers, divorce, death and the final coupling of a widow and widower, the circle is complete and we are shown the human condition (or at least the white, middle-class, straight, First World part of it) in all its fullness.
Mixed Company have presented this musical before, but now that they’ve moved from the cramped confines of the Cement Box Theatre at the University of Queensland to the friendlier space of the Roundhouse, director Simone de Hass has been able to give free rein to her own creativity and the talents of her four sparkling actor-singers. The set, for which no program credit is listed, is like a giant wedding cake sitting on a huge floral doily, and on top of and in front of this the games people play are played out.
They’re a lovely cast, different enough from each other to give the production a real zing, and they are all supremely versatile. Arlie McCormack has played in this show twice before, so she has all her roles down pat, and her cute blondeness lets her swing seamlessly from cheeky teenager to romantic young lover to realistic widow. Vicky Devon is the tall slim dark one with the divine singing voice, and the talented Chris Herden is a perfect foil for both women.
It seems unfair to pick a winner from this quartet, but for sheer acting ability, if not necessarily for his singing voice (we don’t want him getting a swelled head!), Brian Edmond just pips the others at the post. He can be a cocky bastard and a bovver boy in one scene, and a totally convincing young lover in another. His Jewish pater familias is a gem, and I was moved almost to tears by his shy pick-up routine at the funeral parlour, where he meets a widow whose outlook on life almost matches up with his.
Heart-warming is a dreadfully schmaltzy term, but this show really is, because under all the slick modern dialogue and the overt sexual references and behaviour, there’s plenty of genuine compassion and understanding. And don’t we all need a bit of that in our angst-ridden world?
It’s a really good little show, and let’s hope that Mixed Company, having made the move to the Roundhouse, are able to build new audiences so that they can continue to perform there. They already have a strong following, but a bit of word-of-mouth to all your suburban friends would give them the profile in the wider community that they need and fully deserve. One of the most heartening aspects of opening night was the strong contingent of theatre professionals who were there to show their solidarity with this brave talented company, and nobody went away disappointed. It would make the perfect outing for your office party, or even just a group of friends, so give yourself a break this Christmas and make it one of your festive treats. BR>
Directed by Simone de Haas
Musical direction and violin Harmony Lentz, piano Dale Lingwood, lighting and sound Derek Griffin.
Playing Thursday- Saturday 17-19, Tuesday – Saturday 22-26 November, evenings at 7.30pm, matinee 26 November 2pm.
Duration: approximately 2 hours, with a 20 minute interval.