Friday, 12 March 1999

I Love You. You're Perfect. Now Change.

Book and Lyrics by Joe Di Pietro; Music by Jimmy Roberts
 Atheneaum Theatre 1 from March 12, 1999
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

I Love You. You're Perfect. Now Change has something in common with Mum's the Word which grabbed enormous, mostly female, generally non-theatre-going audiences Both are identification theatre: shows which reflect the viewers' own lives in a light-hearted way.

While Mum's the Word mirrored motherhood, I Love You satirises modern relationships. It is by far the better written of the two, having witty, catchy lyrics (Joe Di Pietro) and snappy, singable show tunes (Jimmy Roberts).

The show is essentially like a washing line of funny, clever songs interspersed with sketches of variable comic quality. There no narrative and no consistent characters but the series of sketches evolve from dating and singledom through to marriage, parenthood and, finally and least successfully, to divorce and widowhood.

Dags date, new parents bore friends with baby-speak and husbands wait while wives shop. Wives wait while husbands watch footy. Single women put up with boring dates, guys cry in 'chick flicks', an exhausted married couple plan to have sex, widowed oldies pick up dates at funerals. A couple avoid dating jitters and sexual tension, skipping straight to the break-up.

The cast of four, directed economically by Andy Gale, includes Julia Morris, Matt Hetherington, Elizabeth O'Hanlon, Tim Wood. They are a joyful, energetic, if motley, crew who sing best in a quartet. The solo numbers, apart from O'Hanlon's, highlight their limited vocal skill.

The songs pass the Old Grey Whistle Test (ie Can you whistle the tune later?) and the lyrics are hilarious. Morris, as a recidivist bridesmaid wearing the ubiquitous awful taffeta dress, sings, "All the husbands are gone, but those dresses live on." Other listenable songs are, The Single Man Drought, Why? Cause I'm a Guy, Tear Jerk, Cantata for a First Date.

Morris's broad comic style is better suited to musical comedy than television. She manages to make even some of the less funny sketches work. Wood and Hetherington make a meal of the comic stereotypical males: dag, goofy new dad, fraught father who dreams of being Elvis.

The audience of mostly couples identified with the joys and horrors of relationships. This is an insubstantial show but, despite its Americanisms, it may hit a similar nerve with Australian audiences. It's been running three years on Broadway.

K Herbert

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