If opening night was any indication, Penobscot Theatre has a smash hit on their stage. I have seen most of the theater’s performances over the last 10 years and this was one of its best. The production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” was not only laugh-out-loud funny, it also delivered heartfelt moments and superb musical numbers.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” is a musical comedy written by Joe Dipietro with music by Jimmy Roberts. Its 12-year run off Broadway around the turn of the millennium made it the second-longest-running off-Broadway musical ever. The show consists of a series of vignettes in two acts that highlight the humor and angst of love relationships from that awkward first date to marriage and family life to “funeral dating” for the older set.
The four-person cast features veterans of Penobscot’s stage — Brianne Beck, Ben Layman, Christie Robinson and Dominick Varney — all showing great versatility in a variety of roles, from prison inmate to monk to harried parent. Something gelled for this ensemble into a particularly dazzling form. Director Nathan Halverson seems to have found the best in each of them and in all of them as a group. Their balance, both comedically and musically, was perfect. There were sublime moments of four-part harmony that suspended time and rapid exchanges between characters that never faltered. Each one also had stellar solo vocal moments.
No doubt the musical direction of Phil Burns contributed a great deal to the flow of the show. It is a tribute to Burns’ sensitivity and talent as a pianist, alongside talented violinist Michelle Dempsey, that their presence on stage throughout the show never interfered with the drama. On the contrary, the music was a vital and uplifting part of the entire experience — another perfect blending that added to the whole.
One of the best indications of the irresistible charm of this show was the audience both during intermission and after the performance. You could hear spontaneous giggles coming from all around and snippets of song repeated as people recalled their favorite parts.
Bring a date, bring a friend, and get ready to have fun.
Robin Clifford Wood is a freelance writer and columnist for the Bangor Daily News.