Director: Emma J Leaver
Musical director: Michael Cannon
Producers: Pippa Kyle & Ruth Luckins
Photos by Michael Smith
Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, Music by Jimmy Roberts
The words ‘am dram musical theatre’ strike fear in most people, even those fully signed up to all things fringe and kitsch. Thankfully, Sedos are not your usual amateur theatre company, the beautiful Bridewell Theatre, established in 1891 to provide a social, cultural and recreational centre for London’s burgeoning print and publishing trade not a typical location, and as it turns out I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, not the classic musical.
Going into the theatre, my friend and I had reservations. We were thrilled to have our judgements dashed away. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is an entertaining and energetic romp through vibrant songs delivered by a clearly passionate cast. Coming with the tag ‘Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit’ it’s a gentle poke at the tricky world of love and relationships.
First performed in 1995, it is the second-longest running off Broadway musical. Through a series of sketches and vignettes it explore the themes of love, through all its messy glory. Independent scenes are held together by the overall arc of progressing through life, telling a universal story through personal scenes.
The set is simple, but the twelve person strong cast spirited and they breathe life around the room. They manage to be both authentic and comic, connecting even though we never really learn much about the characters. The mood is jubilant, and the audience regularly laugh out loud. Especially me and my cynical friend.
Bright songs and vivacious dance routines tell the story that we recognise. So we nod in recognition at the pain of a first date and the tussle between wanting to impress and wanting to give up. The fear that comes from not being the ‘perfect’ catch, yet realising that no-one else is either. We sigh and smile expectations of society – and parents – about what singlehood means and how spinsterhood is not a desirable place to be. (Because let’s be honest, in our narrow minded society’s eyes, a single guy is a stud, a single girl is sad). We see wedding day vows being made, and broken, and the changes to a marriage when a baby comes along. Particularly when it comes to sex.
The show doesn’t shy away from sex – and features some very inventive use of the sofa bed, but sex is only one aspect of what it explores. There are tender moments, such as when one character wonders why, despite the practicalities and mundanities of their life, he is still so in love. Marriages break down and the blurring sensations of liberation and let down come to us through one newly divorced woman, and the play almost ends with a funny scene of two older people testing their pick up lines at a funeral.
Of course, that arc is not the same for everyone, and if there are any criticisms it is that the script takes a very heterosexual, very stereotypical position on ‘Love in all it’s forms’ and had some serious issues with body positivity, But then so does our society, and musical theatre isn’t known for challenging societal norms, and it managed a good job of reflecting them.
With humour and spark. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a perfect blend of joyful celebration and satirical mockery of the rituals of the dating game, and the complicated spectrum of emotions that it entangles. Cute, engaging and witty, it’s well worth a watch.
Running until Saturday 12th March – tickets available here.