Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: (Toronto) I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

joel fishbane

Once the toast of off-Broadway, the musical revue I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change has returned to Toronto courtesy of Angelwalk Theatre – and despite attempts by the artists to update the show, it’s starting to look its age. A sitcom-style look at the love lives of the affluent middle class (think Friends with songs), this new production is saved by the talents of its cast and director Evan Tsitsias, who helps bring some fresh tricks to what, despite being written only 15 years ago, is already an aging dog.

Moving from dating to relationships to marriage, this revue of sketches and songs rarely cuts anywhere deep, relying on a truckload of clichés and stereotypes. Only occasionally do we get a glimpse of the show that could have been. Halfway through the first act, a sketch involving two friends who suddenly realize they want to be something more finally manages to leave the stereotypes behind. Wonderfully portrayed by Dean Hollin and Leslie Kay, the sketch is so charming that I was sorry to see the characters disappear. 
the authors of I Love You… (Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts) aren’t really interested in saying anything new about love

Elsewhere there was a song from a bridesmaid (Alison O’Neill) who never wants to be a bride and a comic scene involving a manly guy (Christopher Alan Gray) who finds himself blubbering at a chick flick. Here we see an inversion of the usual stereotype and our interest is momentarily peaked. But the authors of I Love You… (Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts) aren’t really interested in saying anything new about love; they’re just affirming all the myths and clichés you ‘re bound to find in your average sitcom.

It has to be said that I Love You… ran for more than 5000 performances and has been translated into 14 languages; DiPietro and Roberts are probably buying small islands with the royalties, so clearly there’s something to be said for this gentle mockery of the ins and outs of love. I Love You… is a world without adultery, disease, betrayal, abortion, drugs, cigarettes or unhappiness (only one sketch deals with divorce). It’s essentially a fairy tale world of romance which is, of course, where musicals naturally live. 

As mentioned, the cast rises above the material, playing a host of characters and singing a wide variety of songs, from cantatas to tangos to ballads. Alison O’Neill was my personal favourite, perhaps because her bridesmaid song was one of the few to make me laugh out loud. Christopher Alan Gray is a young Victor Garber (that’s a compliment) and both Dean Hollin and Leslie Kay enjoy stretching their comic chops as a married couple who may, if the kids will just shut up, get to have sex.

Director Evan Tsitsias – who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend – attempts to update things by involving cellphones and, in one number, pulling a gender switch to allow for a same-sex couple to have their say. Tsitsias wasn’t able to do this enough, which may have to do with the fact that the entire show is bookended by a mock-biblical chant about “the story of man and woman”. Still the effort was appreciated.

In the end, I Love You… is a fat-filled, sugary dessert and Angelwalk’s remounting is a fine, fun presentation of a show that most people adore – as a case in point, the opening night audience was full of laughs and smiles.  I like a little bittersweet chocolate with my dessert, but that’s me: chances are good you and your significant other will sit back and enjoy the ride.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts plays at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until June 2, 2013. For tickets visit or call 1-855-985-2787.

Read also: Director Evan Tsitsias' first-person piece about directing I Love You...

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