The show may be called I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE, but this production, now playing the Georgetown Palace Theatre, should be known as YOU'LL LOVE IT, IT'S PERFECT, DON'T CHANGE.
I LOVE YOU is indeed a charming little show that defied the odds. The four-person musical revue about love, life, dating, sex, and parenthood debuted Off-Broadway in 1996 during the golden age of the Epic Musicals like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LES MISERABLES, MISS SAIGON, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and The Lion King (which would premiere just one year later). While much simpler and smaller-scale than those dazzling, often over-produced juggernauts, the original Off-Broadway production of I LOVE YOU ran an unbelievable 12 years, far longer than most Broadway musicals.
This production, brilliantly helmed by Director Danny Herman, shows exactly why this simple little show has so much staying power. All four cast members (R. Michael Clinkscales, Rick Felkins, Evelyn LaLonde, and Michelle Cheney) are gifted comedians who breathe life into Jimmy Roberts's tuneful though not completely memorable music and Joe DiPeitro's hysterical book and lyrics, which often takes the form of highly cynical, SNL-flavored vignettes and skits. In the capable hands of this cast, this is a tiny show that packs a major wallop.
Clinkscales has a pleasant voice and a John Ritter-esque comedic style. If anyone's planning a Three's Company musical, look no further for your Jack Tripper. Mr. Clinkscales succeeds the most when he gets to look dorky and uncomfortable, which the material allows him to do quite often. His nerd on a 1st date and sex deprived married man are quite endearing and relatable.
Rick Felkins does well with his multitude of roles as well. He has many a stand-out moment, including a scene in which he plays a convict turned relationship guru and the "Tear Jerk" scene in which he plays every man's nightmare: the guy who gets dragged to a chick flick.
But despite the talents of Clinkscales and Felkins, they are overshadowed ever-so-slightly by their female counterparts. Evelyn LaLonde has a gorgeous soprano voice, an often spunky demeanor, and stellar comedic timing. She may very well be Austin's own Sutton Foster. While she excels and the comedic bits, she's given a heap of the shows more heartfelt moments, including the ballad "I Will Be Loved Tonight" and the monologue "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz," both of which mix humor and tenderness. Though she's asked to walk a delicate line, LaLonde does so with grace, poise, and ease.
Still, it is Michelle Cheney who proves to be the crowd favorite. She often creates over-the-top characters who, despite being larger than life and incredibly caricatured, don't pull focus from the other actors around her. Her take on the perennial bridesmaid and the backseat driving wife are worth the price of admission.
While it is the cast that carries this show and makes it's often pessimistic tone enjoyable, the Georgetown Palace has assembled a skilled creative team. Choreographer Rocker Verastique, Set Designer Barb Jernigan, Lighting Designer Dylan Rocamora, and Costume Designer Tamar Madrigal understand the old adage "Less is more." Their work is deftly subtle, allowing the cast to get the laughs, though I will admit Madrigal's bridesmaid dress worn by Cheney gets plenty of laughs on its own. And finally, Director Danny Herman appropriately paces the evening, allowing each vignette, scene, and song to have its own tone. Though the piece in its entirety seems complete and cohesive, under Herman's direction each moment brilliantly stands alone. You're sad to see each scene end but excited to see what zany, whimsical characters and scenarios will appear in the next one.
I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE is a crowd-pleasing romp for anyone and everyone. If you're coupled, you'll rejoice that the horrors of dating are over but commiserate with the characters who are enjoying their happily ever after. If you're single, you'll be thrilled to see that dating is tough on virtually everyone, and after seeing the later scenes about marriage and parenthood, you may think that your singledom isn't so bad after all. No matter who you are, go see this show. Have a date night. Have a girls night out. Have your bachelorette party. Take your girlfriend and that diamond ring you want to give her. Just don't miss this show.