Under the direction of Alison Lawrence, Simply Theatre have just completed a successful run of musical comedy “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”. The second-longest Off Broadway production, ever.
The tagline for the show is: "Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit." So, in a nutshell that is exactly what it is. A depiction of all things relationships, marriage and love through a series of unconnected scenes, in chronological order from dating, to marriage, to child rearing etc.
With a change of venue for this production, Simply Theatre staged the musical at Camberley Theatre over a two-night run. This is a much smaller scale show than we are used to seeing this group produce but you could see that just as much preparation had been involved. The set was kept simple and was mostly made up of moveable props; tables, mirrors, chairs…….and an oversized teddy bear!
Cast wise this show can be done with any number, due to the different characters used in each scene. However, it’s normally done with a small cast, sometimes as few as 4 people. This production was done with a cast of six – 3 Men and 3 Women and that worked brilliantly, especially given the studio-style space.
From the moment the show started the audience were roaring with laughter. With a great script and a strong cast, it was brilliantly executed and struck just the right chord as the ensemble worked well on their own as well as in the group numbers. Darea Ellis played all her characters with perfect comedy timing, perhaps her best number was the Bridesmaid, who never got to be the Bride. Newcomer to the group, Hannah Johnson, didn’t show any nerves. Her portrayal of a new Mum, eager to make sure all toys were baby proof had the audience in stitches and her act one finale as the Bride with cold feet was played with great enthusiasm. The “stud” and the “babe” Jon Bingham & Anna Tippelt both showed very confident performances. Bingham particularly in his part of the Waiting Trio which talks about a man waiting around for his wife while she shops and he’s left holding the bags. Together, both Bingham and Tippelt were utterly hilarious in the bed scene, which was also really well staged with the bed being upright. Tippelt had the audience at their knees during the scene “The Family that Drives Together” and particularly in the song “On the Highway of Love”. Her interaction with Akhil Gowrinath as they drove in the car with their children was something that I think every Mum and Dad can relate to. Gowrinath was utterly superb, all of his characters were seamless. It’s difficult to pick a favourite performance of his but perhaps the portrayal of a murderer was one that will stay with me for a long time. Last but by no means least I must mention Frazer Woodhams. Woodhams learnt his part in 11 days after taking over from a member of cast who had to drop out. You couldn’t tell that he hadn’t been a part of this show from the beginning because he was just as well rehearsed. A great actor, he’s really going too far with comedy. A commendable performance. In fact, the entire cast were a very well matched troupe.
What I loved most about this versatile cast was that with along with the laughs they were able to also show their vulnerable sides. In the latter part of the show we explore couples divorcing and attending funerals. It was nice to see some really pure performances coming through and a nice contrast with the funnier, racier scenes.
The band, lead by Andy Thompson, perfectly accompanied the cast and were just at the right volume for the size of the venue.
If you measure the success of a show from audience reaction, then you can be rest assured that this one was a triumph. Nicely directed and effectively choreographed by Alison Lawrence and Emma Hough, the piece was tightly rendered and perfect for a run at the Edinburgh Festival maybe?
Perhaps something to consider if Simply Theatre use this venue again is to either raise the stage by a foot or have some platforms at the back of the auditorium to raise the audience. There were one or two moments where cast were sitting on the floor and those of us at the back were unable to see what was going on, which was a shame.
However, this didn’t detract at all from the overall production and I say a huge congratulations to the cast and crew for a fantastic show.