The first show of Theatre-by-the-Sea's 70th season is the delightful musical revue, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." The show is a contemporary look at love relationships from the dating stage to older ones who meet at a funeral and it's message is you always return to a relationship, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. This show is the longest running musical revue in Off-Broadway history and after viewing it for the very first time, I can understand why it is still running. The variety of musical numbers and the comic appeal of the very realistic relationships between men and women comes across to the audience. Director/choreographer, Gary John LaRosa leads his multitalented four member cast in this joyous two act romp, which is sure to delight all members of the audience from start to finish, giving them a well deserved standing ovation.
Gary blocks this show very well, using 2 doors on each side of the stage to represent dressing, rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms as well as the downstage wing area for the quick entrances and exits needed by the cast to play 60 different roles. (The stage crew and the dressers deserve a round of applause for their rapid and smooth changes which keeps the action in constant motion.) Gary's ingenuity comes though in the dance numbers, too, especially "Marriage Tango" where a very harried and tired married couple finds a few minutes to do it with constant distractions happening around them as well as in "On The Highway To Love" where a married couple and their two children take a ride to their grandparents house, using rolling chairs to symbolize the chair, the movement of the four performers is excellently executed and the scene is so true to life, it receives thunderous applause. Gary is aided in this huge task by musical director, Bill Stanley who also plays the keyboard for the show. His accompaniment is as flawless as all the songs and harmonies he taught the cast. Jessica Wright is the rest of the two piece on stage orchestra and she plays her violin masterfully. It is a pleasure listening to these two wonderful musicians. The one main set and mulitude of set pieces used for the all the scenes are created by 7 year veteran set designer, Jeff Modereger. The colorful costumes are by Allison Steadman and her crew with lighting design and two sets of slides describing the upcoming scenes are by Sean Farrell and all the sound effects are by Walter Trarbach who returns to TBTS for his third season. The backstage and onstage magic is controlled by Amanda Waterhouse, the stage manager who makes sure everyone is ready for their next entrance. Bravo to all for their excellent tech work to make this a show to be proud of.
The onstage performers show off their talents by portraying these 60 or so characters and making them different from each other. Not only can they sing and dance but they act superbly, too. Carter Calvert who is real life wife of music director, Bill Stanley, is a gorgeous blond who can sing a high soprano song as well as belt out a country western number. She runs the gamut of roles from little girl to elderly grandmother with ease. One of her best numbers is the country western song, "Always a Bridesmaid" while clad in an ugly bridesmaid's dress, Carter gives a tour de force belt to it, leaving the audience laughing and applauding madly at her talented rendition. She also does outstanding work as the older woman seeking love at the funeral parlor, with bluegray wig atop her head. The other talented lady in the cast is redhead, Bridget Crawford who reminds you of Melissa Gilbert. She plays a variety of comic roles in the show including a nerdy babe, a young mother as well as an older mother but she shows her acting chops in the poignant ballad, "I Will Be Loved Tonight" after she connects with a guy on their fourth date and also as Rosie Ritz in the monologue about a divorcee making a dating video which is a mixture of comedy and a bit of a tug at your heartstrings at Rosie's situation. Bridget handles the wholesome roles and the tarty roles wonderfully and another funny number is "He Called Me" where her boyfriend finally does return her call twice.(Carter plays her mother from Florida and the boys are dressed as Italian pizzamen)
The two male roles are played wonderfully, too. Tally Sessions is a hoot as the nerdy, stud, the nervous groom, the exasperated friend of new parents, the horny tired husband who wants sex and the caring long married husband who sings the touching ballad, "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love With You?". He is a master of disguise on each of his entrances and handles the dialogue, songs and dances with flair. Another comic gem in this show is the trio number called "Waiting". Bridget waits for her couch potato husband watching a football game on Sunday with 32 Football seconds left while Tally waits for his shoeshopping wife in Macy's and Carter needs to pee while waiting in a long line for the woman's restroom. The fourth member of the cast is Brandon Williams who portrays the lazy husband who eats Doritos after scratching his underarm and rubbing his crotch ala Al Bundy. His other comic moments include crying at a chick flick in "Tear Jerk", a tango like song, as a lawyer in the sexual satisfaction scene, as an inmate at the ACI clad in an orange jumpsuit who yells and swears at two people forcing them to marry each other while uttering the mf 'er swear, leading to hysterical laughter. Brandon also uses his powerful voice in "The Baby Song" while he dances with a stuffed bear and in the car scene where he sings like Elvis. ("On The Highway of Love") He and Carter do a gospel number to close Act 1 called "Wedding Song" and he and Bridget do a 50's number as the impatient parents of a noncommiting to marriage son called "Hey There, Single Guy/Gal". Brandon also shows his tender side as the elderly man picking up a date in the funeral parlor in "I Can Live With That" with gray hair and highwater pants. (The Salami sandwich in his pants pocket is a hoot.) Bravo to a fantastic ensemble.
Press night is not complete unless Duane Crowe who runs The Seahorse Grille with his lovely wife, Carleen, prepares a sumptious feast for the theatre's guests. The numerous selections included a huge salad of mixed greens, broccoli, squash, pasta with seafood, potatoes, pork, rare roast beef and many delicious desserts including carrotcake and chocolate mousse cake that both melt in your mouth. Duane's staff is friendly and polite and as soon as you finish one course, they appear to clear away the dishes and glasses immediately. The Grille is open before the show so you can sample its exquiste cuisine. So for a delightful night out near the summer shore, be sure to catch, this show before closing night. You won't be disappointed.