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There's Attraction, Yes; But It's Hard to Say 'I Love You'

Theater review: This musical revue looks good in its move to L.A., but its beauty is only skin-deep.

October 09, 1998|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the musical comedy revue at the Coronet Theatre:

It's enjoyable. But I didn't love it. It isn't perfect. And it's not likely to change, for it has already been a success off-Broadway and twice at Laguna Playhouse.

This staging is based on the second version seen in Laguna Beach. Director Joel Bishoff, Neil Peter Jampolis' urban, brick-wall set and three of the four cast members are back.

The cast is engaging, with the versatile Jennifer Simard going far beyond that. Lance Roberts is almost as chameleonic, and elastic-faced Robert Roznowski has funny moments. Valerie Perri handles more limited opportunities well.

Mating and marriage rituals between men and women are the main subject, but Joe DiPietro's sketches and songs seldom display a fresh angle on this always popular topic. Compared to a superficially similar show, the Richard Maltby Jr./David Shire revue "Closer Than Ever," the characters here aren't as well developed, nor the situations and narratives as specifically etched.

"I Love You" is about attitudes, not individuals. And many of its attitudes are so familiar they're stereotypes: Men's football-watching and women's shopping drive the other sex crazy. Bridesmaids' dresses are ugly. Exhausted parents of young children don't have much time for romance.

Of course, pop music lyrics often thrive on simple attitudes, and it's easy to imagine at least a couple of these songs covered by big stars and doing well on the charts. Likewise, some of the sketches would play well on TV's late-night comedy series.

Singles are featured before intermission. In a nonmusical sketch, a busy couple meets and immediately cuts to the wistful end, skipping the usual steps of a relationship. A pair of overdrawn geeks sings about studs and babes (see Simard's mouth quiver in her attempt to enter babedom). Two women bemoan their boring dates, who then try to defend themselves in a song that actually continues the male-bashing.

A song that pits male and female movie tastes against each other eventually transcends cliches with a clever twist. In one of the more textured scenes, a hesitant tennis date turns into something better, capped by Simard's touching rendition of "I Will Be Loved Tonight." Simard and Roberts play two parents kvetching about the just-announced breakup of their son with his girlfriend in an amusing song with a bouncy doo-wop sound from composer Jimmy Roberts, accurately reflecting the style of music the two parents probably enjoyed when they were young.

A nonmusical singles seminar at a prison is the show's most novel idea. A number about a woman who actually gets a call from her boyfriend and thereby wins a fantasy trophy is relatively original, too. The act-ending wedding number is stale.

After intermission, older characters take over. A country-flavored bridesmaid's lament turns unexpectedly into a celebration. A "Marriage Tango" is well-executed, as are a trio about men and women who wait and two upbeat numbers about older folks (though one of these was marred on opening night by annoying static).

The highlight of the second act is Simard, again, in a nonmusical monologue as a 40ish divorcee making a video at a dating service. Two songs--a strained number about a new father who spouts baby talk and a group song with a boogie-woogie beat, about a family drive--stray from the main theme.

Musical director and pianist Scott Harlin and violinist Valerie Geller provide assured accompaniment from a mounted platform at the back.

*

* "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays-Sundays, 3 p.m.; beginning Nov. 21, Saturdays at 2 p.m.; Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m., except matinee only, Nov. 29. Dark Nov. 26. Added shows Nov. 25, Nov. 27, 2 p.m. $38-$42.50. (310) 657-7377, (213) 365-3500. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

*

With Valerie Perri, Lance Roberts, Rob Roznowski and Jennifer Simard

Produced by Barbara Corday, Michael Filerman and Roger Lowenstein. Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro. Music by Jimmy Roberts. Directed by Joel Bishoff. Sets and lights by Neil Peter Jampolis. Costumes by Dwight Richard Odle. Sound by Jon Gottlieb. Musical director Scott Harlan. Vocal and instrumental arrangements by Roberts. Production stage manager Tami Toon.

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