Director: Kirk Jameson
Book and Lyrics: Joe Dipietro
Music: Jimmy Roberts
Full of imperfect snapshots, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a musical revue that takes us to the heart of relationships.
First performed Off-Broadway in 1996, this musical is a series of vignettes, examining the relationship from nervous first dates, till death do us part. In a digital production filmed at the London Coliseum, a cast of four (Brenda Edwards, Alice Fearn, Simon Lipkin and Oliver Tompsett) explore what it means to be searching for love in the 21st century.
The four start by preparing for a first date. While one debates whether to stay home and watch Netflix, another ponders a day “capped off by an awkward dinner”. The insecurities are tucked away, and it’s best face forward. Edwards and Lipkin’s duet Not Tonight, I’m Busy, Busy, Busy is the ultimate delay in gratification. Edwards – jaded by the dating game – suggests they skip the first date, past the second and onto the third. Lipkin – demonstrating a natural, easy chemistry with Edwards throughout – is dismayed when Edwards rushes past this milestone and they imagine their relationship, two months in and beginning to cool.
The playful tone of I Love You allows the actors to play against type. Fearn and Tompsett goof it up, as they ponder what the dating scene would be like, if they were uber-babes. We cut to them, styled to perfection, as they realise this doesn’t feel right either. We switch back; Fearn in a kitty sweatshirt and Tompsett with glasses and braces. They revel in their nerdiness as they end their date with karaoke.
The lyrics (by Joe Dipietro) pick apart the way we behave when dating. In The Lasanga Incident, Edwards and Tompsett sweetly capture the joy and vulnerability of a newly-budding relationship. At the other end of the scale, Fearn and Edwards are single girls, despairing as Fearn has been sent another unsolicited dick pic.
The delightfully sour notes are the most enjoyable: in Always a Bridesmaid Fearn sings about being the eternal bridesmaid. “For Tabitha, I wore taffeta” – the song cuts through the saccharine, as Fearn pours scorn on the pastel-princess ubiquity of weddings.
I Love You leans heavily on the comic aspect of relationships – but in softer, minor moments we see marriages hanging by a thread (Tompsett is excellent in Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You), the emotional impact of divorce and the end point of a relationship.
In I Can Live with That, Lipkin and Edwards imagine themselves decades older, sat at a wake. It is not the first one for either. They discuss their spouses, now deceased, and the question – what to do with the rest of their lives? With some great physical acting from Lipkin, the song is heart-warming and generous. This is not so much the final act, but the possibility of second chances.
With a strong ensemble, I Love You doesn’t really show its age. A few cultural tweaks here and there, but the observations, acutely observed, remain razor sharp. For the awkward silences and all the heartbreak, the musical champions optimism. The idea that next time could be different, is what keeps us coming back for more.
Available here until 30 January 2021