“Love is for everyone, love is timeless, love is love” wrote Director Gabriella Flowers in her Director’s Note, and under her keen eye, that is what the Savoyards 2018 season opener was all about. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is an off-Broadway smash hit that, rather than having a singular storyline, uses vignettes to explore the idea of love and relationships in society.
With varied scenes featuring different couples at different points in their lives, Flowers made the clever decision to set different scenes in different places around the world, America, Australia, and England. This gave a breathtaking accessibility to the production, and really hit home the relevance of the stories.
Flowers also made the clever decision to lean into the diverse casting, exploring multiculturalism, and sexuality (the unique and breathtakingly staged and performed ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You’ was one of the most beautiful moments of the production) in a way that other incarnations of this show would simple not have been able to do. It’s a genius decision and should be lauded for the freshness and vitality it gave what can easily be a very dated show.
The show also featured some punchy work by choreographer Desney Toia-Sinapati that pushed the show along, added plenty of comedic moments (‘I Will Be Loved Tonight’ with the pizza boxes was wonderful) and never pulled attention away from the small stories that were unfolding onstage.
Musical direction by Danika Saal was tight and together, finding appropriate moments to show off the skills of the three piece ensemble that were featured up the back of the stage, as well as some wonderful solo, duet, and ensemble work. Full credit to the sound team (Jacque Clark / Tristan Ham), from the opening ‘Cantata for a First Date’ the balance between the orchestra and the cast was perfect for the small auditorium.
It should not go without special mention; the opening night audience was treated to a play within a play, as audience member Benjamin Tubb-Hearne stepped in through the middle of Act I to take over from an unwell orchestra member. Speaking to Tubb-Hearne afterwards he said that he had never played the score before, and took on the challenge sight-unseen without dropping a beat, to well-deserved applause from the audience.
The cast for this show are dynamite in a bottle, super talented, super flexible, super great performers. They took the material, and the unique challenges that every new scene put upon them and proceeded to blow the roof off the building. The cohesion in the cast lifted every scene to make it something touching, hilarious, and above all in a show about love – relatable.
Written for four, performed by eight, Savoyards’ cast of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change featured Kate Doohan, Julie Eisentrager, Nick Ferguson, Mufaro Maringe, Jenna Saini, Joshua Thia, Jack Treby, and Nadia Vanek. Each one of these eight is a star in their own right, and together they dove deep into characters that were fighting to be loved, accepted, and understood at various stages through their lives.
Of particular note was Eisentrager’s video scene ‘The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz.’ A masterclass in acting, she was never not in the moment, giving a raw performance with startling honesty. This was, for me, the best scene of the night, and that really is saying something.
Likewise Vanek and Thia in ‘A Stud and a Babe’ gave a hilarious and wonderfully physical incarnation of two people on a first date, exploring who they are as much as who the other person is. Nick Ferguson lifted the ensemble as a wonderful character actor. Playing up beautifully during ‘Hey There, Single Guy’ and as the wayward groom at the Act I closing.
Doohan’s country inspired ‘Always A Bridesmaid’ was as funny, as it was touching, and rose above being a corny song to deliver the timeless message of a human being who feels constantly overlooked. Treby and Saini had beautiful chemistry in ‘On the Highway of Love’ and the choreography with the chairs was inspired. Maringe was as fascinating sitting on the couch eating pretzels as he was dancing the ‘Marriage Tango’ with Eisentrager, or playing the wonderfully vulgar relationship counsellor Trentnell.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a hilarious and touching look at relationships though the various stages of life. It fits snuggly into the much more intimate Star Theatre and clearly represents a bold new vision for Savoyards’ Name of Project initiative. It is a strong new chapter in the companies rich history, and sets an extremely high bar. The season runs until 24th March 2018 and tickets are available at www.savoyards.com.au.