A Musical Comedy About Life, Love & Relationships Opens Tonight!
The first Plaza production of 2015 opens tonight at Wharton’s Plaza Theatre and here’s Jack Balcer’s review of the show. For tickets, please visit whartonplazatheatre.org or call 979-282-2226.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Wharton County
by Jack Balcer
The 2014-15 season of Wharton’s own Footeliters theatre company began in November with perennial audience favorite A Tuna Christmas. Later this year the season will feature an icon of American drama, William Inge’s Picnic, and a blockbuster musical, Annie Get Your Gun.
Nestled among those shows is the Footeliters’ Valentine for Wharton County: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, an off-Broadway musical comedy/revue by Joe DiPietro (whose comedy Over the River and Through the Woods was produced in Wharton last April), with music by Jimmy Roberts. The show, directed by Jonel Knuppel, runs February 13, 14, 15 and 20, 21, and 22 at the Plaza Theatre on Monterey Square.
I Love You, You’re Perfect… consists of twenty mostly comic scenes unified by a single theme – “people trying to connect” is how DiPietro expresses it in his note at the beginning of the script. From the first romance in Eden, through the adventures of dating, marrying, raising and being a family, and even including romance rekindled at a wake, the show depicts events that typify the arc of modern romance as experienced by Americans about 40 years old (as suggested, for example, by the fact that strong, independent womanhood is represented by allusion to Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore.)
The Footeliters’ production features a cast of actors well known to audiences – David Elam, Rachel Hodges Helmick, Russell Kacer, Marika Karastamatis, Celeste McCann, Jama Allen, and Darin Mielke – and Plaza first-timer, Kathy Johse, whom is a star in waiting. Only the first and last scenes feature the same characters, so the actors perform multiple roles. They succeed admirably at portraying a range of personality types.
All of the roles involve singing, too. Particularly outstanding are Helmick (especially in “Always a Bridesmaid”), Kacer (in several songs, but especially in “The Highway of Love”), Allen (in “I Will Be Loved Tonight”), and Johse (“We Had It All,” which includes another excellent vocal by Kacer).
Knuppel succeeds in this, her first directing effort with the Footeliters (she has had ample directing experience at Ganado High School). Her assistant director is Henri-Ann Nortman, who also designed and helped build costumes (and even plays the flute during some of the musical numbers). Staging twenty scenes which use seven actors to play 63 roles is a huge challenge, and Knuppel’s success with I Love You, You’re Perfect . . .) promises excellence for her future directing efforts at the Plaza.
This production uses live music to support the songs and dances in the show: Debra Lemson provides excellent piano accompaniment, with Nortman on the flute. Sarah Wilkins has designed the choreography.
Mystan Gurkin has contributed excellent technical direction, as always. The set is minimal, with items ranging from fine art to doodles reflecting the show’s mostly lighthearted focus on romantic love (one quibble: the words projected onto the upstage wall of the set are sometimes distorted and distracting).
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change will appear at the Plaza Theatre on Monterey Square on February 13, 14, 15 and 20, 21, and 22. Evening performances begin at 7:30, and Sunday matinees begin at 2:30. For information about tickets, consult whartonplazatheatre.org or call 979-282-2226.
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Jack Balcer recently completed nearly four decades as a college English professor, where his favorite course was Shakespeare. While teaching (at Shenandoah University in Virginia), he took enough undergrad Theatre courses to qualify for a minor. Decades before the end of the 20th century, four of the roles he played were Hotspur in 1 Henry IV, Baptista in Taming of the Shrew, Mordcha in Fiddler on the Roof, and Doc in West Side Story. He now lives in Wharton with his wife Kay, the most wonderful woman and the best cook in town.