Review: What We Did Next’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
December 10, 2015
An amateur musical production staged at the offices of a charity for the elderly – not much of a night to look forward to you might think. How wrong you would be!
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, billed as ‘a self help musical for matters of the heart’ and ‘an entire experience’, was most certainly exactly that! What We Did Next (WWDN) is a Liverpool community-based theatre company who pride themselves on putting on ‘professional standard’ theatre that would not otherwise be produced in Liverpool.
I caught the show on its last night. With words and music by Joe Dipietro and Jimmy Roberts, it premiered off Broadway in 1996 and was revived earlier this year by The Arts Theatre in London.
Under the direction of Andrew Abrahamson, the cast and crew gave it a twist of their own by presenting it as a ‘Relationship Dynamics Seminar.’ Producers Ruth Dalton and Jamie Barfield ensured meticulous attention to detail. It was clear from the first moment of arrival when we were given our conference programme and asked to wear name badges that these people know how serious conferences are run!
There was a tangible frisson of apprehension amongst participants as they arrived, not knowing what to expect. The aim of the conference was not to lecture but to put the audience inside a series of scenes taking us through the stages of a relationship, ostensibly so that we would learn to better understand relationship dynamics. It turned out to be a light-hearted poke at the universal angst we all encounter as we experience, or hope to experience love.
The cast of ‘conference guides’ were clearly enjoying themselves as they convincingly played the different characters. Tuning into, exposing and laughing with us at our shared fears and anxieties, they sang and mused with gusto, fine voices and impeccable timing. We were taken through the gamut of looking for love, exploring the emotional baggage we all carry, with songs such as ‘if only I had looks that killed’, or ‘ I’m a guy’, justifying their male insensitivity and machismo.
Tom Wright gave an uncomfortably realistic portrayal of an up tight and hopelessly inadequate young man destroying his parents dreams for him when he admitted he was not going to marry his long suffering girl friend. Andrew Jones delighted the audience as he was reduced to tears when faced with goodbye. For me, the solo of the night was Megan Key with ‘Always a bridesmaid, never the bride’. It was delivered with just the right amount of weary bathos and yearning as her angst was mixed with recognition of the absurd and unflattering dress, undoubtedly recognised by myriad bridesmaids.
The administrators deftly smarmed (Geraint Williams) and effectively over enthused (Charlotte Wilson) as they got things started then shepherded the audience between the different Conference Halls. We were taken from the first date to marriage, (including the delicious wedding feast, where we were the guests during the interval), through the new parents’ obsession with the first baby, advice from under the duvet, to divorce, death, and funerals – Anyone who has experienced the conveyor belt of the local crematorium would appreciate the comment – ‘You here for the 3.30?’
Superb direction maintained the pace with simple but convincing scene and mood changes sweeping the audience from cynical hilarity to nostalgic melancholy and on to old-fashioned laughter. Ingenuous use of everyday props and innovative costume changes were frequently surprising. The use of separately curtained off sections of the set allowed for swift and convincing scene changes from suburban living room to intimacy and advice giving in the double bed. I especially liked the use of typists’ chairs as the vehicle for the car journey.
In each room, the playing area is on the same level as the seating so that those at the back of the room had more difficulty in seeing all the action. However, the frequent change of conference hall meant that no one was in the same seat for long.
Music was under the direction of the indefatigable music director Jonas Tattersall who seemed to be playing almost non-stop throughout the evening. There was an occasional moment when he drowned out a softer voice, but his energy and enthusiasm, not to mention his keyboard skills were in perfect time and harmony with the cast. He was ably supported by violinist Lara Simpson, and her funereal playing dressed in widows weeds as she lead the audience down the stairs, perfectly setting the tone for the briefly melancholy, later- life love scenes.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable production. It might not have lead up to the promise of being life changing, but it was joyously love affirming and undoubtedly one of a kind.
It will be well worth watching out for their next production, Urinetown.
Auditions for Urinetown are being held on 10th and 12th December. For the full audition pack visit wwdn.co.uk.