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Theatre Review

Off-Broadway Series South Review: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change Gleefully Spoofs Modern Romance

March 28, 2003 - Raleigh, NC:

The National Tour of the long-running Off-Broadway hit I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, by composer Joe DiPietro and librettist/lyricist Jimmy Roberts, is another big hit for Off-Broadway Series South. This R-rated musical comedy — produced by John Freedson, in association with James Hammerstein, Bernie Kukoff, and Jonathan Pollard — gleefully spoofs modern-day romantic relationships: love, marriage, parenthood, in-laws, and current fads, such as speed-dating to video-dating.

This rib-tickling satire debuted on August 1, 1996 (and still resides) at the Westside Theatre at 407 West 43rd St. in New York City. When the final curtain dropped for The Fantasticks on January 13, 2002, after more than 41 years and 17,162 performances, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change became the longest-running musical; Off-Broadway... at more than six years and counting.

It is easy to see why. The episodic script contains a mother lode of comic skits and snappy songs apropos to the always thorny subject of love and romance. The current cast, under the inspired direction of Joel Bishoff, are a charming quartet of young and talented performers who milk every laugh in script and score.

Charma Bonanno, a tall redhead, is absolutely hilarious from start to finish. She clowns a la Lucy Ricardo, playing an awkward and whiny girl opposite Colin Stokes' four-eyed nerd, in "A Stud and a Babe," in which the two losers foolishly imagine they can change their wimpish ways to become babe and stud. She delights as a cynical woman waiting for him to call the day after their date. And her video-dating sequence is a real showstopper.

Her height is the only thing average about Leisa Way, a blonde bombshell who can swap a quip or belt a lyric with the best of them. She is funny in the show-opening speed-dating spoof, funnier in her "Always a Bridesmaid" riff, and funniest as an elderly woman who lets herself get picked up by a Golden Guy Romeo (played with chutzpah by Joe Ricci) at a funeral!

Joe Ricci is a hoot as a guy who unexpectedly dissolves into tears during a four-hanky chick flick ("Tear Jerk"). He is terrific as a new father gone goofy over his baby, and super-cool as a henpecked husband who becomes Mr. Cool when seated behind the wheel of the family auto, with his backseat-driving wife nagging in front and the kids complaining in back.

Colin Stokes is highly amusing as a guy trounced in tennis by his overly aggressive (on the court) girlfriend, as a dinner guest put off by the baby talk of his host and hostess (Joe Ricci and Charma Bonanno), and as an exhausted husband who suddenly gets his second wind when his too-pooped-to-pop wife momentarily revives and suggests that they make whoopee while the kids are asleep.

Pianist Timothy Evans provides spirited (on-stage) accompaniment. He and set designer James Kronzer, lighting designer Daniel Ordower, and audio engineer by Jens Muehlhausen also make sizable contributions to the show's success.

In a show with major belly laughs in just about every scene, I am sure that I missed some of the highlights. But you don't have to. Buy your ticket today!

Off-Broadway Series South presents I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change Friday, March 28, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 29, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 30, at 2 and 7 p.m. in A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $31-$43. 919/834-4000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115202/803882 [inactive 12/03]. Groups of 20+: 919/231-4575 or tickets@priorityseating.net. http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2002-2003/offbroadway.html#lpc [inactive 4/04] or http://www.loveperfectchange.com/.