It’s not often you get to pop your cherry at the grand old age of forty-six, especially not in London, however until this evening I was a virgin to both The Battersea Barge, and the show ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’.
I’m happy to say that I am a virgin no longer on both counts, and that reaching this state of affairs was, all things considered, a tolerable, if not to say pleasurable, experience.
The show ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ originally opened off Broadway at The Westside Theatre on the 1st August 1996 and ran for over 5000 performances, making it, after The Fantasticks, the second longest running off-Broadway show ever.
Numerous countries and productions later, it’s now holed up at Vauxhall’s Battersea Barge until July 17th in a new production directed by Drew Baker, and I will admit that though the material has it’s faults – more of which later – it would be difficult to fault the production.
The show takes the form of a revue alternating songs and sketches, loosely framed on the notion of love and relationships, and arranged sequentially from first date, through to death.
The peppy cast of four, David Ribi, Sarah Coggin, Nic Kyle, and Chloe Tyler do not have characters, but are merely labelled as Man and Woman 1 and 2.
Of the four Ribi is probably nearest to being the biggest draw, having only recently completed a run of Zanna Don’t at The Landor, and brings to his songs a winning charm, and boyish blond good-looks. His range is stretched more here than in Zanna Don’t, which is a blessing, as it gives us the opportunity of seeing what he has to offer, from baseball-capped schoolboy to stud! Though he’s more than capable of holding his own, he excels in the scenes where he has someone to play off, making the songs ‘A Stud and a Babe’, and ‘Marriage Tango’ especially enjoyable.
Sarah Coggin – again excelling with Ribi in ‘A Stud and a Babe’ has one of the shows moments of catharsis in her monologue ‘The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz’ which was not only surprisingly well written, but also delivered with impeccable coming timing. Coggin is capable of switching effortlessly between high comedy and heart-wrenching pathos on a button, without ever becoming mawkish.
Chloe Taylor, as Woman 2, again excels and because of the way the show is structured is able to display a range from ingénue to elderly woman, and in her song at the top of Act Two, ‘Always a Bridesmaid’ shows the angst of being the eternal maid of honour.
What I’m about to say about the final member of the cast is meant in no way to denigrate the other three, who are all excellent in their own ways, but in Nic Kyle this show has found real star quality.
Originally from New Zealand, we are told that this is Nic’s London theatre debut, and I can only think, and indeed hope, that it’s not long before we see him again.
Possessed of an extremely fine and effortlessly languorous voice, and a delivery which just oozes show-business, Nic Kyle is the sort of talent which jumps off the stage and grabs you by the throat.
Fortunately he has not only the musical theatre credentials to more than do justice to the music in this show, but gives us tantalising glimpses of what might lie in store for the future.
His switch from the tender lover, trying not to cry at a chick flick in ‘Tear Jerk’, to the hand-cuffed killer of ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’, then on to the end of Act Two and an elderly Jewish man picking up at the funeral parlour in ‘Funerals are for Dating’ is a joy to behold.
This is a man who has honed his craft, and if London has any sense she will welcome him to her bosom with open arms.
It must be remembered that these things don’t come together on their own, and as well as Drew Baker’s direction, everything was under the fluid and faultless musical direction of Ben Holder from the keyboard.
So, what of the faults? Well, it’s the writing. Some of the sketches are excellent, as are a couple of the songs, however some – like the unfortunate ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ are appallingly badly written, with cringe-making rhymes, and mis-stressed words at every turn.
That having been said, this is a show which I’d certainly recommend anyone to see, and with this cast, before they go their separate ways.