Review: A sharp and sassy look at modern love on Stratford stage

'An eyes-wide-open look at love in the modern era'
'An eyes-wide-open look at love in the modern era'

Nick Le Mesurier reviews I Love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change, presented by Rogues and Vagabonds at The Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford

How many times have we done it? Fallen for someone, only to wish, pretty soon after, they’d change just a little bit? Or in time, perhaps a lot?

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, is a smash hit musical revue that ran for twelve years Off-Broadway and has been translated into many languages around the world. It packs a big punch from a small crew, which makes it ideal for small companies like Rogues and Vagabonds.

The play consists of a series of short stand-alone vignettes, few of the characters in one appearing in another. There is a narrative arc of sorts, from first stumbling dates in youth through to a rather sweet pick-up between two old people at a funeral. The script is entirely sung, with lots of catchy tunes to drive the message home.

And what is that message? Well, one could see it as a fairly cynical look at the vanities of love – the delusions, the stresses, negotiations, disappointments and hopes that keep the whole thing going. Nothing in love quite turns out as expected. Or one could see it as a celebration of the vitality of human emotion that makes us matter to each other. Either way, it’s packed full of wit, charm, snappy characters and oh-so-recognisable – for which read embarrassing - situations. Never mind that the show is performed in American accents: this is about as universal as it gets.

The production has to be slick for this show to work. We must know where we are within a nanosecond of the beginning of each scene, and that with only a few chairs as props. Characters have to burst on stage, fully costumed, fully confident, fully realised.

And they do. The four performers, Connor Clemens, Vanessa Gravestock, Oli Williams and Georgie Wood, their directors Amanda Laidler, Andrew Holtom and Amy Gardyne have this show fully in hand. For the most part voices have that Broadway dazzle that is part of the American musical scene. Their characters are instantly recognisable – the geek, the stud, the babe, the bride, the mom, the dad, the abandoned wife, the boring husband, the video date. It’s funny throughout, but some scenes are hilarious – how does the idea of suing your partner if they don’t give satisfaction in bed grab you? Or a whole relationship done and dusted in a few minutes for those too busy to take a coffee break from their careers? Or the tired parents trying to find a moment’s privacy to rekindle their passion? This is an eyes wide open look at love in the modern era: sharp, sassy, occasionally a little rough around the edges, but ultimately hopeful.

The show received a standing ovation from the audience, which it thoroughly deserved.