May River Theatre Co. ends 10th season on a high note with "I Love You ... Now Change"

Special to Lowcountry LifeMarch 9, 2012 

May River Theatre Co.'s final production of the season closed on a particularly high note. "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," was filled to the brim with rollicking humor and genuine emotion, and we were completely entertained by this tuneful mating game. It was a musical comedy portrayed energetically, in a series of high-spirited vignettes.

The issues of the evening involved all the things that come with marriage -- parents, in-laws, out-laws and children. This was followed, appropriately, by divorce, funerals and even senior circumstances. We came full circle. These vignettes of relationship moments throughout the two-hour musical review entertained, delighted and, by turns, caused us to laugh and even brought some of us to tears.

This reprise of "I Love You ...," directed and choreographed by Jodie Dupuis, with book and lyrics by Joe DePietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, was spot-on. For all who enjoy laugh-inducing lyrics, melodious musical scores and top-of-the-line performers who can do it all, this Off Broadway musical comedy was the perfect bon bon to wrap up the 10th season.

Of course, a dynamic book and brilliant music must be supported by a superb cast. Happily, our foursome of Debbie Cort, Lowell Roberts, Livie Schwerdt and Brett Williamson were first-rate and, just like the script, funny beyond belief. At the same time, they touched us more than we could anticipate or imagine. The gifted and talented quartet appeared in this same piece about six years ago and signed on for an amazing redux. They were terrific then, and they were terrific for this run, too.

Cort, who has appeared many times at May River, brought each of her characters vividly to life. She is a polished actress, singer and dancer, and she can be so funny. In the first act, when she is joined by Roberts in "A Stud and a Babe," she knocked our socks off with her physical presence, her posture and gestures and her first-rate dialect. And for many other reasons, I'll never forget her performance, a bit later, in "The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz." It was simply Cort and a video camera, and it was intense, sobering and perfectly realized.

Cort was joined by Roberts in the touching "Should I be Less In Love with You." Here he sang to the now-aging, distracted Cort. I must tell you that we, in the audience, reacted at the end of the piece. You could hear and feel our collective concern. He also was just right in "Lasagna Incident," and he was on the mark when the company joined together in the riotous "Marriage Tango" and the "Family that Drives Together."

We all laughed out loud during Schwerdt's "Always a Bridesmaid," which started the second act in a major way. You must picture this: Schwerdt dressed in the quintessential bridesmaid dress -- and you know that isn't good -- as she belts out, with just the right amount of country twang (think Dolly Parton), those amazing lyrics. It was fun and completely spot-on.

Williamson captured the nature of his many characters. He eased us into the production with "Busy" and updated us later with "Baby's Song." A powerfully rich and warm performance came about when he joined Schwerdt in "Funerals are for Dating -- I Can Live With That." They were amazing and disarmingly genuine as they explored relationships from a completely different perspective.

Throughout the evening, the exceptional quartet entertained us completely, and we loved it.

I'm looking forward to the 11th season: "Evita" in May; "The Producers" in August; "The Fantastics" in November; and "Annie" in February.

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