By John Quinn
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is the second-longest running off-Broadway musical, garnering enough audiences to play 5,000+ performances. With lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, this musical comedy revue is a favorite choice among smaller theater companies. It calls for minimal set, little orchestration and a comfortably small cast. The Box Theater in Mt. Clemens closes its fourth season with a production that transcends its material.
While “I Love You” is efficient entertainment, it’s not memorable entertainment. No one will be humming the score while leaving the theater. Its tagline says, “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit.” That’s a fair summary. There is a definite arc to the plot, beginning with a tenuous first date, proceeding though marriage; some couples endure, others part. There’s even a gleam of hope for romance after menopause. But in the end, as Gertrude Stein commented about Los Angeles, “There’s no there, there.” A successful production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect” depends completely on who’s doing it.
Fate handed The Box a lemon – the rights to its previously scheduled and much anticipated “Miss Saigon” were pulled recently when a national tour was announced – yet they made lemonade. A big part of the winning recipe is the cast; past musicals have proven The Box draws great singers, and “I Love You” is no exception. The ensemble; Jose Cabrera II, Kevin Fitzhenry, Joel Frazee, Lauren Fuller, Erika Fell Movahedan and Andrea Thibodeau, bring sensitivity to even the most pedestrian lyrics. The vignettes interspersed with the music are successful, but are not as captivating as the songs. One exception: In an unusual show of generosity to one of the least understood theater positions, the company has handed an extended monologue about online dating to its stage manager, Mandy Logsdon. The scene is intense enough for the audience to grasp the character.
Musical numbers are accompanied by two pianos, played by Kaitlyn Keith and Joe Walters. John Forlini, as music director, has set a nice balance between vocals and accompaniment. There is still a little problem hearing lyrics, though. The theater is reverberant, and it appears echoes are muffling some of the vocals. Joel Frazee’s booming baritone is admirably cutting through the clutter – this may not be the time for subtle renditions.
It’s spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love – or whatever they’re calling it nowadays – so kudos to director Rodel Salazar for serving up a sweet, tart glass of seasonal refreshment.
‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’
The Box Theater, 90 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens, 8 p.m. June 14-15. 2 hours. $20-$22. 586-954-2677. http://www.theboxtheater.com