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At Up-Stage Theatre, Upper Hutt until 09 November 2019

Director/Musical Director: Jennifer Mahony

Director/Choreographer: Bridget Connor

Theatre Company: Upper Hutt Musical Theatre

Reviewed by Lindsey Rusling

I Love You, You're Perfect....Now Change! is an upbeat, Off Broadway musical revue that ran for more than 5000 performances from 1996-2008. Traditionally set in New York in the late-20th Century this production is an updated version for 2018. The show takes us through numerous vignettes that depict life in terms of love and romance. The themes are glimpses into the reality of life and love - the Manhattan dating scene, mid-life suburban marriage and old age and all the humour, hurt and beautifully ragged emotion it entails. Jimmy Roberts' perky music with book and adorably humble lyrics by Joe DiPietro are cute, funny, poignant and totally relatable. It holds up a mirror with a gentle, warm and charming hand and encourages us to laugh at ourselves.

The material itself is timeless: the scarcity of single men, staunch blokes bemoaning and then being overcome by the latest chick flick they've been dragged to, the horror of bridesmaids' dresses through the years, struggling politely through mind-numbing dinner dates, marriage, baby-bores, driving with teens in the backseat, sustaining love into old age and finding romance in the waning years at a funeral.

Slickly directed and choreographed by both Jennifer Mahony and Bridget Connor, the set is simple with colourful, comic book backing and a white wall with black, ben day dots reflecting numerous colours from a well-positioned LED light. Set changes are speedy and polished which maintains pace and energy.

As this is a community theatre production, it is great to see that the directors have chosen to cast eight actors rather than the usual four as this gives more opportunity within the society and a talented bunch they are! Movement and harmonies are tight and underpinned by the excellent musicianship of pianist EM Liao who accompanies each song with an impressive skill and depth of emotion.

Janine Roberts brings a wealth of musical theatre experience and vocal dexterity to each of her characters including a beautiful rendition of "I Will Be Loved Tonight". Harrison Nicol has a sumptuous, smooth tone and showed his acting diversity through "Tear Jerk", "The Baby Song" and a delightful presentation as an older gentleman in "I Can Live With That". Julie Fitzgerald's larger-than-life persona bubbled over with flawless comic timing in numbers such as "Single Man Drought", "He Called Me" and "Scared Straight" while Nick Edwards brought a profoundly authentic tenderness to "Shouldn't I Be Less In Love With You?". A highlight was "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz" - an exciting masterclass in acting from Nicky Finn.

The talented cast is rounded out by Ross Taylor, Rachel Te Tau (with a quirky rendition of "Stud and a Babe") and Graeme Todd (Why? 'Cause I'm a Guy!") who all brought expertise, vitality and vigour to their performances.

Overall, a lighthearted, well-executed comedy that's well worth the price of the ticket!

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