By Lori Bosworth
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the second longest running Off Broadway play, opened at the Toronto Centre for the Arts on Thursday, May 16, 2013. Produced by Angelwalk Theatre, the 2 hour and 20 minute musical was an entertaining romp through the typical stages of love relationships from online dating to the predictability of marriage to love in the senior years.
Women pretend to like pointless and crude comedies or pose as gourmet cooks to please their prospective dates while husbands put up with never-ending shopping trips and try to negotiate the sexual landscape. A senior picks up another senior at a funeral.
Some of the acting highlights included Leslie Kay’s awkward nerd in the musical number, “A Stud and a Babe.” Christopher Allan Gray’s lecture-dispensing prisoner coaching fearful audience members on the benefits of finding a partner was tearfully funny. O’Neill gleefully spoofs the anxious single woman who is surprised when her date actually phones her with a hysterical over-reaction bursting into the song, “He Called Me.”
Although this play debuted Off Broadway in 1996, some of the play’s cultural references are dated and may go over the heads of a younger audience including references to Mary Tyler Moore and Marlo Thomas who starred on TV as groundbreaking single career women in the 60s and 70s, sex experts Masters and Johnson and Mr. Coffee.
The acting foursome playing various roles in a series of unrelated vignettes all possess solid musical chops. Alison O’Neill’s Broadway-bound voice revealed her obvious operatic training as her alto voice soared in solo, duet and quartet performances. Dean Hollin gave “Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You,” an ode to a long-time spouse, an appropriately tender spin and differentiated from his other roles where he was cast as a nervous and inexperienced lover. The romantic ode showcased not only Hollin’s vulnerability and sensitivity, but his comfort and ease with a ballad and was his standout musical performance. Gray’s soulful, bluesy tenor hit some clear, reverberating notes that demonstrated his control in the upper ranges. Musical Director and pianist Scott Christian provided superb accompaniment on the piano while Tamara Hrycak added a twist with a violin accompaniment.
What makes this play truly memorable are the universally-recognizable moments of embarrassment, clumsiness, anticipation and intimacy that anyone who has dated the opposite (or same) sex can relate to, as well as a sensational songbook by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts, all of which makes for a truly entertaining evening.