Here are some things that you may not know about the Joe DiPietro–Jimmy Roberts perennially popular little musical about the mating game, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”: It’s the second longest running Off-Broadway show in history, playing for 12 years (1996-2008) with more than 5,000 performances. It played in nearby Rochester for seven years. Staged in dozens of countries, it has been translated into at least 14 languages, including Mandarin Chinese and Finnish.
Good news for Western New Yorkers: It’s in English and is now playing at The Kavinoky.
Playwright and lyricist DiPietro hit it big right from the start of his career with “Love-Perfect-Change.” He followed it with the sappy but fun Elvis juke-box send-up, “All Shook Up,” continued the streak with the Tony Award-winning musical, “Memphis,” a collaboration with Bon Jovi’s David Bryan. Last year, he garnered more accolades for a Gershwin tribute, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is indeed about looking for love, men seeking women and vice versa, traditional and contemporary. There are 20 skits – most with song, some with monologues, some with both.
A cast of four plays 40 characters: dates, lovers, married couples, parents, in-laws, lonely people longing for soul mates, tweeting, texting or Facebooking like mad for someone “out there.” One of the many songs about dating, “I’ll Call You Soon (Yeah, Right)” sums up the early going as does a bittersweet “A Stud and a Babe.” Wise moments here.
Joe Demerly’s first directorial assignment for The Kavinoky is very impressive. Each skit, each song, is presented with great care . It matters little if the stellar quartet of a cast – Kelly Meg Brennan, Charmagne Chi, John Fredo, Brian Riggs – are in joyous relationships or suddenly on would-be love’s downside, the vignettes, for the most part, work. A few skits begin lamely and go nowhere. These are minority minutes.
Actress Brennan can go from frump to beauty in a blink. Her countrified version of “Always a Bridesmaid,” with its limerick lyrics – “For Tabitha, I wore taffeta; You should never, people laugh at ya,” – is a laugher.
Veterans Fredo and Riggs are at their intuitive best, the former a delight during “The Baby Song.” Riggs, who always surprises, does so on the tender ballad, “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You?” a tale of reflection after years of marriage, over breakfast, a time of mystery and wonder beautifully delivered by Riggs; great wordsmithing by DiPietro, sage staging by Demerly.
Chi is the night’s best, comical and quick, then introspective on the sage “The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.” Rose’s husband has left her and the kids – “for an older woman with grand kids and a bad hip” – and she’s making a taped message for a dating service. Too much information, Rose. Hilarious and touching at once.
The melodies are listenable – nice work by composer Roberts – the words very clever, the themes universal, and you giggle, identify and even get misty-eyed.
Musical direction is by Mark Vona; Doug Weyand adds some choreography.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”
Three and a half stars (Out of four)
Through July 7 in Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. Tickets are $39. Call 829-7668 or visit www.kavinokytheatre.com.