Community theater opens season with musical comedy

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Jennifer Wesco isn't tip-toeing back into acting after an eight-year break. Instead of preparing for one role in an upcoming Lawrence Community Theatre production, she's working on 16.

The musical comedy "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" features more than 60 different roles, all played by one of four actors, in a series of skits about love, marriage and all the sticky stuff in between.


Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

From left, Jennifer Wesco, of Perry, Rick Bixler, of Topeka, and Sarah Young, of Lawrence, are featured in the upcoming musical comedy "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change." The show opens Friday and runs for three weekends at Lawrence Community Theatre, 1501 N.H.

"The funny parts are plentiful," Wesco said. "I just get cracked up thinking about it, but there are poignant things as well. I don't think there's a scene where people won't just laugh out loud."

The production is broken into 22 segments that focus on everything from the angst of a first date to the agonies of in-laws. Other actors in the show are Sarah Young, Rick Bixler and Patrick Kelly.

Mary Doveton, the theater's artistic director, said there were lots of costumes and costume changes, with the actors running on and off stage all night. Changing scenes and characters also mean a heavier workload for costume designer Annette Cook, the backstage crew and director Terrance McKeers.

"My job as a director is to keep them honest with all these different choices, and keeping them all straight," McKeers said. "Each actor is developing 14 or 15 different characters, physically and emotionally and vocally. It is a tour de force for an actor to portray all these characters in one evening."

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" is the longest running off-Broadway musical currently playing, surpassing the Broadway runs of musical hits "Annie," "Oklahoma!" and "My Fair Lady." The show was released for smaller community theaters in the past year, McKeers said.

Part of the show's success can be found in the universal truth of its message. Everyone can relate to the familiar situations on stage, McKeers said, from being new parents who can't do anything by themselves or a wife who is a backseat driver.

"It's totally identifiable by anyone who has ever been on a date," McKeers said. "I've been through most of this, when you're asking yourself, 'Is this going to be the date from down under or the date of my dreams?' It's real life, heightened by humor. It's easier to laugh about life when it's on stage."