Riverside Theatre in Iowa City is one of only a handful of regional theatres fortunate enough to gain the rights to present I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change so early in its history. The musical comedy - dubbed "Seinfeld set to music" - is still running in New York at the WestSide Theatre and is also in Boston, and it hasn't begun to tour nationally. But it's at the Riverside Theatre through September 30.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change features just four actors in at least 30 different roles. Joe DiPietro, who wrote the script and song lyrics, and Jimmy Roberts, who wrote the music, were not aiming for a romantic Cole Porter-styled musical. Instead, their take on the dating-mating-inflating-deflating ritual of boy-meets-girl or boy-meets-boy is hip, modern, and more than a little cynical at times. The first act presents 17 vignettes of the dating-to-wedding cycle, and the second act provides a send-up of marriage, child-rearing, divorce, and even the widowed-spouse-starting-over phase of the cycle. While most of the scenes are intentionally witty, the dialogue and song lyrics also contain more than their fair share of insight, longing, loneliness, and heartbreak.
Jody Hovland has deftly encouraged high-energy performances from the four actors. Few set pieces and props force the actors to rely on their considerable talents to make each character well-defined and believable in spite of donning only a scarf or shedding a raincoat. And the characters are believable, many of them in fact recognizable as people we actually know: "I'm busy, busy, busy. ... Can't we just skip to the second date?"
The musical opens and closes with four robe-clad monks singing a modern chant and commenting on the play. In between, get ready to laugh, giggle, and stomp your feet as the snappy dialogue and outrageous lyrics entertain, entertain, and entertain again.
All four ensemble actors are appealing in their ever-changing roles and have strong voices. But Marcia Hughes' voice is the standout, whether she is belting out the country-and-western ballad "Always a Bridesmaid" in Act Two or a pop or blues melody.
Two musicians are very much a part of the ensemble and provide a few comedic moments of their own. The two stagehands who change props and set pieces enact their own romantic comedy during the 30-second interludes between scenes.
Once again, the Riverside Theatre has struck gold. It only missed a few of the more recent trends: chat rooms, computerized dating services, and the newest twist, espresso speed-dating roulette. Perhaps the lyricist and songwriter can insert a few new scenes to update what will surely be a musical for the new millennium.
The Riverside Theatre box office is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call (319)338-7672 to reserve tickets or request a season brochure.