Thursday, 8 November 2012

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change - review

Written by: Seona McClintock (@seonamcclintock)

Riverside Studios, London

It’s easy to see why this show is one of the longest running Off-Broadway: it tackles with wit the relationship issues that crowd after packed crowd can identify with, but it needs to pack a few more punches to make it to the Great White Way. But it has made it to the Riverside Studios in London where the pattern is broadly the same. This musical revue strings together a series of sketches and songs about relationships since the dawn of time, from Adam and Eve to the average modern-day cinema-going couple, from first dates to funeral homes.

The acting is funny but mostly emotionally hollow, owing to the lack of real, three-dimensional characters to cling to. This is especially apparent in the second half of the show when the hilariously awkward (and unnervingly accurate) portrayals of first kisses and dates gone wrong segue into the adult world of cars, kids and accompanying mayhem via a wedding in the middle. When a man mourns his wife, and an elderly pair meet at another funeral we are delicately reminded where all the dates and weddings eventually lead; but the show fails to linger on these poignant moments, depriving the audience of the emotion that is sorely lacking. Although the actors carried off the comedy pretty well, they were largely too ‘jazz hands’ to deal plausibly with the tinges of melancholy that could have transformed the show.

Given how the show swings through scenarios like Elizabeth Taylor through marriages, the performers cope very well, attacking each new caricature with admirable gusto. But in a show driven by songs rather than story the music was underwhelming and the singing unremarkable. The notable exception was Nancy Hill, a charismatic and talented performer whose rendition of Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride was a highlight, and who captured wonderfully such diverse characters as the Jewish widow from New York and the squealing kid in the back of the car.

The show’s strength lies in the comic treatment of universal themes – I defy anyone to leave without having a blush of recognition or familiarity. But unfortunately it is often the execution that lets it down – I don’t think anyone will have left humming one of the easily forgotten songs. It seems to try just too hard most of the time, laboriously filling the stage with unnecessary bits and pieces of set and rushing through barely noticeable costume changes, when the characters could have sold themselves.

This production has finished its run. 
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