Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday December 12th 2018

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The Never-ending Story

By Jennifer Leigh

One of the longest-running musicals is centered on one of the most discussed topics since the beginning of time—love.

“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” first debuted off Broadway in 1996 and has since been revived in various different formats on stages across the globe. And now, it’s made it way to Pensacola Little Theatre (PLT).

Director Maureen McNeill has a history with the show. In 2004, she performed in the musical and has returned for a completely different role.

“Originally, I signed onto the project as the director’s mentor,” she said. “Life happened, and I ended up having to take over the production at a very late stage … a decade later, I’m getting the chance to bring a whole new slew of life experiences to the table.”

“I Love You” is a series of vignettes that correlate with the central theme of love and relationships. McNeill said the fast-paced show caters to a millennial audience.

“It’s structured like a musical revue,” she explained. “They (audience) invest in these characters for a short while, but share in their brightest moments.”

Since it was written more than 20 years ago, there had to be a few tweaks and updates to the show. McNeill said she added in the element of technology, which largely affects dating and relationships today, as well as a few modern-day references. But ultimately, the show is timeless, which can explain its long run.

“Personally, I find the themes that musical explores to be universal,” McNeill said. “I don’t think they are exclusive to romantic relationships, either.  It’s just as much about self-reflection and empowerment. RuPaul said it best — ‘if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?’”

In the past two decades since it premiered, “I Love You” has been interpreted over and over again. It’s a versatile show, which can be stripped down to just actors sitting on a stage or developed into a bigger production. PLT’s version will be on a smaller scale, inside the courtroom of the Pensacola Cultural Center. The space doesn’t hinder the jokes or heartfelt moments in the show, said Meg Baisden, production coordinator.

“This production strikes a happy medium in terms of scale,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to see the off-Broadway production twice, and at its most ambitious, it is still a four- person cast with relatively simple costumes and staging. Luckily, the intimate nature of the space pairs beautifully with this show.”

It’s a whirlwind show, with a small number of actors portraying about 40 different roles in various relationship stages, but Baisden said it’s a seamless production.

“The thorough line of relationships at various stages—with all of their struggles and joys —ties each scene neatly to the next,” she said.

Love is often a theme in the performing arts. This show doesn’t just tackle on relationship, but several.

“Artistically, it’s all about dynamics,” McNeill said. “The interaction between two people is more engaging than just one alone.  Even Tom Hanks needed a Wilson on the island.”

There is a lesson buried not too deep beneath the jokes, the songs and the emotional moments. McNeill learned the lesson, not necessarily from the show, but from her parents.

“My parents have been married for 40 years, and I don’t think there has been a day when they didn’t make each other laugh,” she said. “There will be days we think the people we love are perfect, and we will spend other days trying to change them. Be thankful for it all, and don’t be afraid to laugh about it along the way.”

Whatever your current relationship status is, you’ll relate to “I Love You” and be entertained.

“Wherever you find yourself on the highway of love—’dating’ on Tinder, getting hitched, raising children, rebuilding an empty nest, surviving divorce, or making the best of your golden years—this is your story,” McNeill said. “Let’s laugh, and maybe cry a little, together.”

I LOVE YOU, YOU’RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. May 13-14 and 19-21; 2:30 p.m. May 15
WHERE: Pensacola Cultural Center, 400 S. Jefferson St.
COST: $10-$17
DETAILS: pensacolalittletheatre.com