By Barry Reszel
Quest Theatre Ensemble is the epitome of value-added musical theatre.
And its current staging of Joe DiPietro‘s (book/lyrics) and Jimmy Roberts‘ (music) lovingly funny relationship vignette production, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, is simply the best professional theatre value anywhere within 1,000 miles of its venue at Andersonville’s The Blue Theatre.
One might argue that’s not saying much, because Quest, the self-proclaimed “People’s Theatre of Chicago,” is the city’s oldest free-of-charge theatre company. That argument is quickly shut down by Director Laura Sturm‘s terrific casting of four excellent, professional singer/actors and Music Director Sarah Langham‘s accomplished, professional musicians sonorously working their way through the creative, laugh-a-minute libretto.
The greatest nit with …Love…Perfect…Change is that the show that ran in New York from 1996 until 2008 feels a bit dated. To be sure, Sturm worked against that, including cell phones, scenes with same-sex couples and references to Uber, Lyft, fidget spinners, Alexa and other new century devices. Still, much like the 2003 Avenue Q that still features Diff’rent Strokes child star Gary Coleman though he’s been dead for more than seven years, an authorized freshening of the script and accompanying songs would truly give this musical new life.
That said, at least three-quarters of the show is still wonderfully relevant, and all of it is terrifically performed by Christian Davis Aldridge, Alys Dickerson, Gavin Donnellan and Liz Jarmer. …Love…Perfect…Change is a series of nine vignettes on dating, love and relationships. With the tagline, “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit,” the scenes are independent with changing characters but suggest an age-related arc, from young dating to marriage to older age.
Among the musical highlights are Jarmer’s knock-it-out-of-the-park rendition of the loveliest song in the wonderful songbook, “I Will Be Loved Tonight;” Dickerson’s funny and bittersweet, “Always a Bridesmaid;” and Aldridge’s gorgeous and tender, “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love With You.”
Favorite vignettes include “Tear Jerk” (Donnellan and Jarmer), “And Now the Parents” (all four actors), “Sex and the Married Couple” (Aldridge and Dickerson) and “Funerals Are for Dating” (Donnellan and Dickerson). Indeed, the entire show is superbly acted and mostly very well sung.
The full list of scenes and songs may be read here.
Certainly, there is room for improvement. A fuller sound than a three-musician ensemble would be welcome; more accomplished set design would be noticed (though not fully necessary to enjoy the show); and some better vocal blending in the all-ensemble numbers would be great.
But that said, curious patrons should know Quest’s production holds its own with professional companies in the city and suburbs. While the “free” price tag might devalue Quest among the theatre snobs (this reviewer was told none of the Tribune, Sun-Times or Daily Herald regularly send their critics to opening night), the advice here is: Don’t be a theatre snob. Enjoy this …Love…Perfect…Change; it’s the best value-added show around.
Quest Theatre Ensemble presents “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” through October 29 at The Blue Theatre, 1609 W. Gregory Street, Chicago. For more information and to reserve your seat (highly recommended…most shows are full) click here.