STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
The enduring lament, “Always a Bridesmaid,” gets a new twist in a wonderful production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” now playing at the Durango Arts Center.
Running through our American Valentine madness, the musical comedy revue has been smartly mounted by Imaginary Friends Productions. Mona Wood-Patterson directs. She is surrounded by her familiar creative team from the days – nay, years – at Durango High School. But this bit of adult fluff wouldn’t have found its way on stage at DHS. It’s witty, grown-up and contains a bit of hot sauce.
The 1995 work is remarkably resilient. It should be. It ran Off Broadway for more than 5,000 performances, the second-longest running O-B musical in history.
The prologue presents a tongue-in-cheek creation story complete with white robes and Biblical references. Then it quickly slips into something more uncomfortable, “Not tonight, I’m Busy,” featuring the effervescent Jenny Fitts Reynolds and the solidly funny outlier Lee Marshall.
“A Stud and a Babe” centers on a pair of nerdy kids and their alter egos. Performed with elastic charm by Erik Andersson and the marvelous comedic range of Rachel Saul Pollack, it’s a fresh and colorful insight into the high school world we’re all glad we left behind.
“Bridesmaid” also demonstrates why this show ran so long in New York. To a jaunty rumba beat, a happy, newly married couple (Fitts Reynolds and Marshall) rush off on their honeymoon. One of their bridesmaids (Pollack) wanders on stage in perhaps the most hideous dress ever to have appeared on stage or in a wedding album.
“I hate this dress,” she confesses to the audience. Then, in a delicious deadpan, she sings through her ill-clad history as a perennial lady in waiting: “Too many weddings, too many dresses.”
Just when you think the sketch can’t get funnier, other cast members provide an addendum, not to be given away here.
With its 20 well-paced scenes, the revue is all about dating, courtship, loving, losing, marrying, even dying – and starting all over again. I’m not kidding. Nothing is sacred, so expect the unexpected.
Some of the pieces are straight up satire; others border on sitcom comedy. A few moments miss the mark, but the whole is crisp and entertaining.
Musical Director Helen Gregory has coached her singers well. As the accompanist, Gregory wisely provides filler music between scenes. Set and costume changes flow smoothly; credit Charles Ford, Joann Nevils, Jennie Albert and a well-trained crew.
Lest you think the whole evening is one brash comedy bit after another, the style, tone and tempo shift with every scene. Two fairly serious moments change the air entirely in Act II as if the creators took a deep breath.
Out of the fabric of a simple domestic scene, Marshall unexpectedly slips into a beautiful, mature love ballad. Immediately after, Fitts Reynolds delivers a stunning monologue, sans music, with surprising turns and plenty of food for thought.
The show lasts a little more than two hours with one intermission.
Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.