Tag Archives: Laura Johnson

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

★★★★

Chiswick Playhouse

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

Chiswick Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th November 2019

★★★★

 

“All the actors deliver stellar performance and vocal work, and there is a real sense of ensemble chemistry between them which is a joy to behold”

 

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a musical about relationships which, yes, sounds as generic and cliché as they come. However, those initial preconceptions are swiftly blasted away as the sheer quality of the skill and craft involved with the writing and production elevates this to a level of entertainment that leaves you consistently surprised and delighted.

Originally debuting in 1996 and becoming the second longest-running off-Broadway musical, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change saw extensive rewrites in 2017 from its writer Joe DiPietro and composer Jimmy Roberts. Despite certain songs and cultural references being updated, the concept of the show has remained unchanged: that of a series of musical vignettes that all centre around the themes of love and relationships. Although the characters and stories in each vignette are unconnected, together they form a trajectory through a relationship, from its beginning to its end. The ways in which the first two thirds of the show build up the exploration of its core ideas is fantastic, although the somewhat rushed and less interrogative final third makes for an underwhelming end.

That said, the contexts that DiPietro’s script has devised for each of these episodes are excellent, depicting relatable situations and feelings surrounding first date anxieties, pre-wedding meltdowns, and child-raising exhaustions. The dialogue preambling the songs is snappy and characterful, and the lyrics are clever, quippy, and punchy. Roberts’ score also keeps the texture of each scene feeling different to the last by dipping into a variety of styles, from rap to bee-bop, although this felt at odds with the piano-only accompaniment from musical director Stuart Pedlar.

Highlights of the show include ‘Better Things to Do’, where two men (George Rae and Dominic Hodson) on a first date decide to pretend they’re much further along in the relationship to avoid awkwardness; ‘Tear Jerk’, where Hodson desperately tries to gauge the right way to react to the chick flick his date (Laura Johnson) has opted to see with him; and ‘Marriage Tango’, in which Rae and his wife (Naomi Slights) precariously juggle looking after their children with their sex life. All the actors deliver stellar performance and vocal work, and there is a real sense of ensemble chemistry between them which is a joy to behold, although Hodson must be singled out for bringing an expert level of comedy to every character he portrays, from vindictive vicar to flirtatious funeral-goer.

Charlotte Westenra’s direction, along with Steven Harris’ choreography and Verity Johnson’s design all work in harmony to keep the focus squarely on the stories being told without ever resorting to gimmicks or flashiness – a smart choice indeed, as many of the stories are well-worth hearing. They’re a comfort to our insecurities, an opportunity to poke fun at the intimate anxieties of others, and at times a poignant reflection on the ways we handle relationships. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change isn’t quite perfect, but exceptionally easy to love.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Savannah Photographic

 


I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

Chiswick Playhouse until 30th November

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Sophie, Ben, and Other Problems | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sirens of the Silver Screen | ★★★ | June 2018
Sexy Laundry | ★★★ | November 2018
Carl’s Story | ★★★★ | March 2019
Harper Regan | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | June 2019
Type On Paper | ★★★★ | July 2019

 

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Review of Hair – 4 Stars

Hair

Hair

The Vaults

Reviewed – 11th October 2017

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

“the fabulously talented cast  exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish”

 

News of the rock musical Hair coming to London to celebrate its 50th Anniversary was generally received with excited expectation when it was announced earlier this year. Amongst some of the questions posed at the time however were ‘would this show have relevance to 2017?’ and ‘would The Vaults in Waterloo be a great venue?’.

It seems that the talented group of people from the cast to the creative team have exceeded expectations and delivered a show that looks, sounds and feels terrific with a place and relevance in 2017.

The Vaults has been transformed into a 1960s hippy commune. The walls are covered in tie-dye material and posters from the period. There are prayer ribbons everywhere, a nod to the North / South Korean border which features in the set. The evocative music provides a landscape of sound that really transports the audience into the era. There is a strong scent of incense.

As the audience files in to take their seats, they pass the actors already sitting in a circle of contemplation and we see a remarkably decorated room. For those that know nothing of this musical, the original production, penned by James Rado, opened off-Broadway in 1967. The show came when American society was in a state of flux with the country divided by its protracted involvement in the Vietnam War. It has a background of peace and love whilst addressing key issues such as anti-war activity.

The music has survived the test of time with easily recognisable songs such as Aquarius, Let The Sun Shine In, Ain’t Got No, I Got Life and Good Morning Sunshine forming part of the 41 songs in this production. The show also features Hippie Life for the first time on stage, which was originally written for the film version of the show. The band perfectly drives the music along assisted by a crisp and clear sound mix, though there were a couple of occasions when some of the lyrics were hard to hear.

This production has a fabulously talented cast who exude energy and enthusiasm from the start to the finish. Shekinah McFarlane sets the standards high with the opening song Aquarius and Laura Johnson is a joy to watch and listen to throughout the show. They are joined by a further 12 cast members.

There is a small part in the show when we see Claude’s (Robert Metson) hallucinations following an intake of particularly strong drugs and some of it is quite bizarre. However some aspects of this ‘trip’ are quite sobering and very well acted.

When the show came to the West End in 1968 the opening night was delayed until the abolition of theatre censorship in England under the Theatres Act so that the show could include nudity and profanity. The short nudity scene remains and some of the language used is rather ‘fruity’ though it never seems to offend.

Overall this is a very engaging production from the stables of Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment with sharp direction from Jonathan O’Boyle and outstanding set and costume design from Maeve Black. The audience gave a well deserved standing ovation and responded enthusiastically throughout.

Finally there is a challenge for anyone not to thoroughly enjoy the close of the show – it leaves the audience on a natural high – ironic given the reference to drug intake throughout the entertaining evening. Join the Tribe and let the sun shine in!

 

Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Claire Bilyard

 

 

HAIR

is at The Vaults until 13th January 2018

 

 

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