It has been a full generation since the musical revue “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” first emerged and enjoyed a 12-year run off-Broadway beginning in 1996. The show has had many regional productions and beyond since.
We can thank George Street Playhouse director David Saint for encouraging author-lyricist Joe DiPietro to update the show to reflect the changes in dating in light of social media influences over time. While many of the skits and songs with music by Jimmy Roberts remain the same and are still amusing in most cases, it is the buoyant fun provided by the very talented cast of Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Mitchell Jarvis, Karen Burthwright, and George Merrick that makes the production.
In “Cantata for a First Date,” a couple, in order to avoid the pitfalls of a typical first date, devises and enacts a scenario that propels them through their awkward second date, the pre-and post-sexual considerations of their third date, and the eventual realization, after another date, that they are not suited for each other. It’s a winner and sets the pace for one breezily performed skit after another.
Opening Act II is another comical gem “Always a Bridesmaid,” winningly performed by Chambers. In retrospect, I might have wished for more of the same wit that propelled these two skits to fill up the main portion of the show. But this feeling does not diminish the overall pleasure that comes from watching this exuberant foursome make the most of what is offered.
There is always some degree of danger in a revue whose topicality and timeliness can easily become dated. That is truer when it comes to political satire than with those depicting social behavior. Adding some topicality is a new, very funny skit for same-sex parents (Mitchell Jarvis and George Merrick), who find themselves talking baby talk to each other and to their nonplussed guest (Burthwright). With that said, the battling — or shall we say the balancing — of the sexes in traditional dating rituals has remained rather stable, even predictable, over the last couple of decades. This is nicely reflected in the show.
What many observers will see soon enough is how the exploration of match-making ploys and mating dance postures really has changed very little over the past 20 years. I will admit that watching a pair of nerdy daters fantasize themselves as a stud and his babe earns a few chuckles. Also seeing a macho man shed buckets of tears during a chick flick make its point. Texting as a way of communicating was not part of the dating game 19 years ago, so a new skit in which the topic is a “picture of his…” makes its point.
But there still come times during the show when situations — men and football and women and shopping — earn a been-there-done-that response. It isn’t that DiPietro and Roberts haven’t exhausted every way in which his theme might be delivered. The 19 or so skits move quickly and are imaginatively staged on a handsome modernist set designed by Jim Youmans, who also contributed the show’s colorful projections and lively media designs.
Of the songs, the best is still “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You,” as sung by a longtime husband (Mitchell Jarvis) to his inattentive wife across the breakfast table. If I had to choose my favorite and best laugh-getter it would be “I Can Live with That,” in which an older man makes a connection with an older woman at a funeral. Behind the scenes, four musicians accompany the performers and play Roberts’ score with verve.
Subscribers and new audience members will find much to admire and appreciate about the theater in its new temporary location (while its new venue is under construction), and the way that Saint and his team have transformed what used to be the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture on Rutgers University’s Cook Campus. Those familiar with the former location will still find a cafe open for pre-show and intermission treats, a beautiful and spacious court yard, and mostly good sight lines in the theater as well as ample parking.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road, New Brunswick. Through November 12. $15 to $79. 732-246-7717 or georgestreetplayhouse.org.