Just as people in longtime relationships need to find ways to rejuvenate the romance, so too do cute musicals about dating, love and marriage. Especially when they seem caught in the amber of the mid-1990s. (Video dating? Really?) Not to mention 1950s gender roles. (Guys sure do become alpha-males behind the wheel!)
That is the problem plaguing director and choreographer Matt Raftery's superbly cast production of "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" at Marriott Theatre. The ridiculously talented foursome in Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts' 1996 paean in songs-and-sketches to Love, Stereotypical American-Style work hard to bring nuance to the over-familiar conflicts — guys who won't shut up on dates, parents who pressure their offspring to marry, etc. One wishes that their talents were in service of something not quite so shopworn around the edges.
That said, if you are in the market for light, crowd-pleasing summer fare, this show hits the same sweet spot that, say, "Forever Plaid" offers. Marriott's production easily serves as a pleasant, low-key date night or family outing. The naughty bits are pretty mild and I'd say the show is appropriate for mature pre-teens and up.
The premise is that the first act takes on the trials and joys of heterosexual dating, ending inevitably with a wedding. (The traditional, heteronormative nature of the show does get a bit of counterweight in the closing moments, where images of a wide variety of couples — gay and straight — are projected.) The second follows couples through the rest of life, including babies, divorce and in "I Can Live with That," late-in-life second chances after spouses have died. (Sometimes you have to make your move, even if it is at a wake.)
Bernie Yvon carves out a nearly Fred Willard-esque comic edge to several incarnations of the Self-Assured-For-No-Particular-Reason American Male, including "Tear Jerk," in which a man dragged to a "chick flick" by his date finds himself welling up against his will. Kelly Anne Clark, a vet of several productions of this show, brings a sweet optimism to "I Will Be Loved Tonight" as she anticipates her first "real date" with a guy who has just been a friend up until now.
Johanna McKenzie Miller, along with Yvon, makes the aforementioned funeral parlor number sweet, rather than mawkish. She also knocks the stuffing out of the comic highlight, "Always a Bridesmaid," while sporting a seasick-green pouf dress that screams "The bride hates me." (Nancy Missimi's costumes, which of necessity have to come off and on quickly, also succeed at providing more-subtle clues to the changing characters.)
Alex Goodrich delivers the most satisfying song of the evening in "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love with You?," in which a middle-aged man observes his wife (Miller) over morning coffee and realizes that, despite the setbacks, he is exactly where he wants to be with the one person who makes him feel complete. It's lovely, underplayed and honest — and one wishes that the creators of the show had provided a few more opportunities like that for the outsize talents in this production to simply be in the moment, rather than underlining clichés about romance. But then again, lighthearted summer flings can be as enjoyable in their time as heavier theatrical love affairs.
When: Through Aug. 11
Where: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Tickets: $40-$48 at 847-634-0200 or marriotttheatre.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun