This intimate, four-character, Off-Broadway musical revue about relationships (1996) makes you feel better when you leave than when you come in, as its visionary producer James Hammerstein once said. There's magic in that pronouncement, for this pleasant, unexciting, eager-to-please little show has made a lot of people feel better. The show played Off-Broadway for 12 years, the second-longest-running production since the immortal The Fantasticks, and then has toured all over the globe, making the producers feel very happy indeed. You could have your own entry in the Guinness Book of World Records just by following productions of this international juggernaut. It's possible to take in shows in Beijing, Tokyo, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, London, Toronto and Sydney. That's quite a cruise.
Of course you're not traveling first-class, nor will you ever eat at the captain's table. It's more like the buffet on the Queen Mary II, which, if not completely nourishing, is certainly filling. Perhaps that's the reason for the show's appeal: It doesn't offend or probe too deep. We've been through most of these iconic situations. (And if not, we've seen them plenty of times in countless TV sitcoms and variety shows -- they're old comfy friends by now.)
This is no Sondheim bitchfest to remind you of life's stiletto in the back, with nagging, psychotic regret for paths untaken. The show's abiding message that the cycle of life is imperfect and the people we fall in love with are perfectly flawed, too, is sweet and rosy-cheeked, without sharp edges to leave permanent scars. You could take your Aunt Mary, and she'd find it warm and amusing. It's so universal that Eskimos and Chinese can nod in agreement at nervous anxiety on a first date, grooming habits, bridesmaids' dresses, sex during marriage, divorce, growing old, widowhood. There's something for everyone.
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Zippy and tuneful, if not exactly memorable, the songs by Jimmy Roberts (music) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics) adeptly serve the heterosex look at love with plenty of joyful smiles and just a hint of rue. (DiPietro won Tony Awards for lyrics and book for Memphis. His latest musical, The Toxic Avenger, recently opened at the Alley Theatre.)
Country Playhouse's version, directed by Wayne Landon and Vance Johnson, with musical direction by Rachel Landon, has a personable performing quartet that wrings every bit of shtick and goofiness out of DiPietro's book scenes. They mug like champs where applicable. Although their voices don't blend quite as well as they should when at full throttle, individually, each shines when called. Louis Crespo ("Shouldn't I Be Less in Love with You?"), Monica Passley ("I Will Be Loved Tonight"), Sean Ferratt ("(I Can Live with That") and Jennifer Ferratt ("Always a Bridesmaid") comprise the sprightly quartet, any one of whom would be acceptable to meet the parents.
The verdict: For a pleasant supper-club-type entertainment, ILY,YP,NC is admirably cheerful, and, yes, you will leave in a better mood than when you entered. In this day and age, that's a definitive rave.
The successful cabaret revue about love and relationships runs weekends through January 26 at Country Playhouse, 12802 Queensbury. Order tickets online at www.countryplayhouse.org or call 713-467-4497.