LOVELY show to finish off York Light’s 70th anniversary. Something a little different. All about love. That adds up to three reasons espoused by director Neil Wood to see the American musical comedy with the tripartite title.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has its place in musical history as the second longest-running off-Broadway musical revue, premiered by the American Stage Company in 1996.
Now it swaps New York for York while retaining its American accents for 20 vignettes of universal resonance, each delving into a different aspect of love and relationships, their joys and their challenges.
Those vignettes, humorous, honest, heartfelt, heartwarming and heartbreaking, are full of life, lust and love’s labours lost and found, charting the path from dating to marriage, parenthood to ageing.
Writer and lyricist Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts bring momentum, mischief, romance, frankness, sauce, familiarity, delight, jaw-dropping awkwardness, pathos and passion, surprise and shock, to savvy, soulful, sweet, sour, salacious scenes ranging in length from five to eight minutes, diverse in style, tone and content.
Updated in 2018 to reflect changing times and fads, some take the form of dialogue or a monologue; some are songs; others combine the two. Like a taster menu, there is always another juicy morsel coming along to savour in each 55-minute half.
On an end-on stage with tables and chairs on one side, a sofa bed on the other, those vignettes are in the hands of a cast of seven – spreading the roles wider than the original production’s quartet of actors – and each of York Light’s magnificent seven takes on at least six parts, some as many as eight.
Neil Wood, directing York Light for the first time, put his company through Laban technique rehearsals to settle on characterisation and movement, giving each scene due weight with an emphasis on exposing the vulnerability in so many of the lovers’ tales.
He is rewarded with performances that are truthful and comedic, moving and candid, playing to both individual and collective strengths in a whirl of costume and character changes relished by Richard Bayton, Emma Dickinson, Mark Simmonds and especially the chameleon Sanna Jeppsson and James Horsman.
Look out for Jeppsson’s arthritic hands when playing an old woman discussing love in a funeral parlour opposite Horsman in arguably the most affecting vignette, Funerals Are For Dating.
Emily Hardy and Monica Frost graduate from the York Light ranks to principal roles for the first time, Frost being particularly impressive, whether in the country pastiche Always A Bridesmaid or her confessional online dating monologue, The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.
Not since Lloyd Webber and Rice’s Joseph And The Technicolor Dreamcoat in their fledgling days has a musical pulled off so many pastiches, from country weepie to Luther Vandross soul, Ratpack smoothie to boastful rap, power balladry to Lloyd Webber and Rice themselves, demanding much of keyboardist Martin Lay’s resourceful band (with Rosie Morris on bass, Katie Maloney on reeds and Jez Smith on drums).
Billed as “riotous, rude and relevant”, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is indeed those three Rs, but it is also real, relatable and richly rewarding. We’ve all been there, done that, now watch love’s highs and woes from the safety of a ringside seat. You will laugh, you will cringe, you may well cry too.
Performances: Tonight (Thursday) and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.