As we get used to this ever-changing brand new world, virtual musicals have become something of a constant as we move from tiers to lockdown to whatever comes next. A strange concept at first - (Is it theatre or is it a film?), we have all embraced them and find them a great comfort in these hard times where a trip to the theatre isn't an option. One of the most prolific producers have been Lambert Jackson Productions who have come to our rescue time and time again over the past 10 months with a series of virtual productions ranging from The Last Five Years, First Date and the unstoppable Songs For A New World. Here they are again to bring us their first big production of 2021 - I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.
Running for a whopping 5000 performances over a lengthy 12 year engagement off-Broadway, the show has rarely been seen in London so is not as well-known as some of LJProds previous titles. Indeed, this isn't a show I was familiar with so a completely blind first viewing was an exciting prospect.
Rather than tell one cohesive story with the same characters, the show features a number of sketches varying from all different stages of dating - from the trepidations of first dates to marriage and children. While the sketches themselves are not linked, it still manages to form a loosely linear narrative as it ventures from all the stages of a relationship in the order you would mostly expect them. All the scenes feature varying levels of success between the pairings though all have an underlying tone of frustration.
Like Songs For A New World, which is the most obvious production to compare it to given the different characters, four is the magic number when it comes to lead roles. The four actors playing the different roles are Kinky Boots and &Juliet star Oliver Tompsett, Loose Women panelist and Hairspray star Brenda Edwards, Simon Lipkin who you may have seen in Nativity and First Date; and former Wicked witch Alice Fearn.
A special mention has to go to Simon Lipkin who stepped in at the last minute after only an afternoon of rehearsal after Hamilton star Trevor Dion Nicholas sadly had to withdraw from the production. You wouldn't have known he had less rehearsal time as he holds his own, ensuring when it is his turn to get the spotlight, he takes it and smashes it out of the park.
Four stalwarts in their field - the performers all have incredible chemistry with each other as they move from one pairing to another like they're at a speed dating event. The fact social distancing measures are in place doesn't take away from the chemistry. You could even argue not being able to touch eachother is an accurate portrayal of the married couples in the show.
All four cast members get the chance to shine in their own right with some fantastic solo numbers. Whether they are performing straight-faced through some unconventional and sometimes blue lyrics or singing a more straight and serious song, their devotion to the material never wavers. With four powerhouse vocalists on hand, the performances always remain utterly captivating and you really get to feel that all four of them are having the time of their lives playing around with this material.
The sketches range from the familiar to the absurd - the number of weird dates you have been on may determine how unusual you find them. Highlights include Brenda Edwards and Simon Lipkin skipping through an entire relationship in a matter of minutes, Alice Fearn brilliantly shutting a potential suiter down when he sends her a picture of his penis and a truly hilarious sketch involving a sex lawyer (Is that a real thing? Did we all google that or was that just me?) Parts of the dialogue have been updated with a genius excuse of not taking the kids to Disneyland by telling them "Mickey has Corona".
It's not all laughs though. This is a show with a lot of heart to it. Some more tender moments are dotted throughout the piece. The most emotional and gutwrenching moment comes from a quite simply phenomenal monologue from Alice Fearn who opens her heart in her first dating video, moving every viewer through the screen. Some of the laughs courtesy of the bad dates throughout the production have more depth to them than might meet the eye - throughout, you can see the yearning the characters have to find love in their lives and the vulnerability within them.
The entirety of the show is filmed at the beautiful London Coliseum. The action all takes place on the stage, which is cleverly transformed to fit the situation taking place - be it a bar, restaurant or cinema. It shows the magic of theatre when a simple change of lighting can transport you to a completely different place. The show is bookended with lingering shots of the empty theatre craving life to pulse through its empty aisles and bodies to fill its empty seats. In a show that is often lighthearted and comic, it is a sobering reality that doesn't fail to remind you of what we are fighting for and why we so desperately need our theatres to re-open their doors.
Full of great wit and fantastic performances, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change provides us with a much needed 80 minutes of escapism - though this might be the kind of escapism where you laugh at others misfortune and the absurdity of certain situations before realising you have been there yourself... or perhaps are even STILL there. It's still escapism nonetheless. One thing we all need after the past year is a good laugh and this show delivers that on all fronts. Lambert Jackson Productions have set the bar high with some truly incredible productions during the multiple lockdowns. This is another stellar title to add to the already flawless collection.
In summary, this show is an absolute triumph. Full of tears of laughter and tears of joy, it does a brilliant job of keeping us all sane and reminding us why theatre is so crucial and why the people who perform it are some of the most talented people this country has to offer. Do yourself a favour and watch this show.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change is available to stream on Friday 29th and Saturday 30th January at 7.30pm with an early performance on Saturday at 12pm.
Tickets are available from https://londoncoliseum.org/whats-on/i-love-you-youre-perfect-now-change/
Here is a clip of Oliver Tompsett singing one of the numbers from the show: