Even in its prime — the late 1990s — “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” was hardly cutting edge. But it was pleasant enough, with likable characters and a variety of musical styles that won it a nomination as best Off-Broadway musical of 1997. And it entertained audiences for a good, long time.
The current production of the musical, now at the Pollock Stage at Sacramento Theatre Company shares most of the attributes of the original. It looks at love from many angles; it takes a gentle approach to even the tough times of dating and managing a relationship; and it’s warm and makes us smile at remembrances of such events in our own lives.
It also boasts a heck of a cast, giving its all. Melinda Parrett, Jennifer Morrison, David Crane and Jake Mahler play a variety of characters in various pairings and each has a fine voice.
With book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, “Perfect” is the second-longest running Off-Broadway musical in history (after “The Fantasticks,” which STC presented last year). It ran for more than 5,000 performances between 1996 and 2008. It is a staple of community and smaller professional theater companies. Its small cast and simple staging make it both manageable and affordable to produce. To illustrate its appeal: Theatre Three in Dallas has presented the play from New Year’s to Valentine’s Day for 17 years.
The musical consists of a series of vignettes that trace the arc of the mating game. It begins with single people beginning the dating process and proceeds through hookups, breakups, marriages, child-rearing, and, finally, into divorce or the loss of a mate through death. Even at this sad juncture, the play holds out hope for finding love — or at least companionship — later in life. That’s one of the things that gives it its charm, despite some weaknesses.
This look at late-20th century relationships is from a straight, white, heterosexual viewpoint. There is no suggestion that black or brown or gay people might also look for love in this manner. Heck, even the Dallas production has an African American cast member — and DiPietro is openly gay. But we have what we have and there are pleasant stops along this road of love and life.
Among the musical highlights are “Single Man Drought,” sung by Parrett and Morrison; the humorous “Why? ‘Cause I’m a Guy,” performed by Mahler and Crane; a touching “He Called Me” by Morrison; and a very tender “I Can Live With That,” featuring Crane as a lonely widower flirting with a widow as both attend a funeral. Parrett performs one of the best numbers, “Always a Bridesmaid,” with aplomb. The lyrics hit the mark with comments on bad taste in men and material (as it attendants’ dresses), but it also shows its age. A reference to going down the aisle more times than Elizabeth Taylor will soon be completely lost on younger audience members. A late scene in which Parrett prepares a profile for a video dating service is strong — and she is perfect — but it feels out of time with previous vignettes, which seem to deny the existence of this “modern” contraption.
Director Jerry Lee moves the show swiftly along. An excellent singer and actor himself, he knows when to push and when to ease off to let the play breathe. Samuel Clein (alternating with Chris Schlagel) on piano and Annie Coke on violin provide excellent accompaniment, while Renee DeGarmo’s set design, Ron Madonia’s lighting and Jessica Minnihan’s costumes contribute to the polished production.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is presented at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 12. Tickets are $34-$38, with discounts available for students and seniors. Sacramento Theatre Company is at 1419 H St. For more information, call (916) 443-6722 or visit sactheatre.org.
Photo by Charr Crail