Celebrating the mating game

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (Savoyards)

The Star Theatre

March 17 – 24

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The musical comedy “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is the second-longest running Off Broadway musical and a popular choice for companies worldwide, so audience familiarity with its storyline is an easy assumption., Storyline is perhaps the wrong descriptor though as rather than having a singular narrative, the show uses loosely-related vignettes (mostly, but not all, featuring songs) in follow of the mating game course of love.

Act One explores the journey from dating to love and marriage, while Act Two reveals the after, all with short and to-the-point scenes, showcasing the customary broad mix of talent you’d expect in an amateur community theatre company production. Immediately, however, from when the cast members morph from a Greek Chorus robed ‘Prologue’ into ‘Cantata for the First Date’, during which they transition into preparing for a date, Mufaro Maringe establishes a strong presence with versatile vocals traversing the styles of ensemble numbers and duos with ease, and making us wish for a solo number. Kate Doohan is similarly vocally excellent throughout, but especially in ‘Tear Jerk’, in which her character chooses the movie to watch with her date, to unexpected comic effect.

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Act One’s ‘A Stud and a Babe’ cements the work’s comic tone in its physical show of two equally-insecure people trying to make conversation on a first date and singing about how easy it would be if they were different. However, some of the funniest scenes are those without songs. And all of the ensemble members shine in comic moments. Drawing on his “The Producers” characterisation, Joshua Thia makes for a very funny attorney in ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’, an infomercial like sequence that considers what it would be like if you could sue somebody for not sexually satisfying you. And Maringe is magnificent as convicted mass murderer Trentell who shares his sad story to 30+ singles as part of a Scared Straight to the Altar Program.

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The 20 scene range of story snippets means share of a variety of accents, which are initially jarring, particularly in scenes already showcasing caricatures and if intention was to represent a variety of settings, this wasn’t achieved given its overall impression of being (as overheard in audience discussion) ‘so American’.  Good use is made of the Star Theatre’s wide stage, but the raised band, although excellent, is initially at least, distracting to those further back in the audience at its sight line.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, No Change” has something for everyone, perfectly captured in Act One’s ‘Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening’ during which women sing about the lack of single men in ‘Single Men Drought’ before men sing their own praises in ‘’Cause I’m a Guy’. It is lighthearded and its stereotypes serve to offer easy entertainment, but mostly it is funny, even if its comedy comes mostly through the obscure rhymes of its lyrics, such as in ‘Always a Bridesmaid’ (“Once my gown was velourish, made me look kind of whorish”) and ‘The Marriage Tango’ (“I put away each smurf and the footballs made of nerf”).

Beneath their humour, the songs aren’t particularly memorable and with so many in often such quick-changing scenes, recalling them post-show is difficult. Still, while they aren’t showstoppers, they’re quite clever in their comedy. It is unfortunate that there are only a couple of touching numbers, especially given that Act Two’s heartfelt and honest ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You’, during which a man expresses his love for his partner as the two engage in their shared coffee routine, is the show’s biggest standout.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, No Change” straddles the line between trivialising and celebrating romance-related social rituals; although it is tongue-in-cheek throughout, at its core is a clear message of the timeless universality of love which is its ultimate appeal, homogeneous as its presentation may be. Its sometimes dated ideas make for comfortable comedy and it is easy to see what has made the show such a hit because while some of its moments are formulaic, its subject matter lends itself to clichés, so this can be forgiven.

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