The Majestic Theater’s 20-21 season debut:
The Majestic Theater takes on a new approach to bring theater to its members and the masses using the video streaming platform Vimeo. With a “pick what you pay” pricing system, the Majestic is hoping their members and new viewers will open their wallets as generously as their love for community theater. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change debuted off Broadway in 1996 and was a hit among audiences for its satire approach to love and relationships. It was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off Broadway Musical in 1997 and has since gone on to be performed in theaters across America. With a cast of four (2M & 2 F), sparse set, a piano/keyboard for music, and present day costumes, this musical can be produced and performed on even the tiniest of budgets making it popular among community theaters.
Directed by Timothy John Kelley II, with music direction by Kent Wilson, and vocal direction by Kimberly Kelley, this new show took on more than just the material. According to director Tim Kelley, rehearsal for the show was shortened to 6 weeks for the performers compared to the three months a musical is normally provided. Due to Covid restrictions, the actors had to be 6 feet apart at all times, wear face shields, and perform without a live audience. They rehearsed via Zoom for dialogue, outside for vocal rehearsals, and took the necessary precautionary measures of temperature taking and screening questions whenever they rehearsed in person and during filming. Due to the shortened schedule and tech challenges, Tim decided to “divide and conquer” by spreading the 50-ish number of roles among 14 cast members instead of the four the show calls for. He felt it would give each cast member a lighter work load to learn the material in such a short amount of time as well as a “buffer” in case someone had to drop out. Staging for film was a new skill to learn for this director as well. With three stationary cameras and one rover, keeping “the intimacy of the material” while adhering to Covid restrictions was a huge challenge for the production team as well as the actors themselves. The face shields also posed new challenges for the tech crew, led by Chad Howard, with light bouncing off the outside and vocals bouncing off the inside of the shields. This cast and crew really had it’s work cut out for them! They all made the tech challenges feel non-existent while watching the show, so kudos to everyone involved!
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change uses a sparse set with projection to help with locations and situational moments. It opens with gorgeous light saturation and an opening number which sets the tone for this tongue-in-cheek, impending doom relationship theme. The show moves with catchy songs about dating and waiting for the phone to ring, getting married and the pressures of marriage, in-laws, and kids, and then late in life relationships. Funny moments, sad moments, and relatable moments abound with the actors doing their best to connect with one another… while staying six feet apart. The show closes with a sweet exchange between Michael Wren and Alice Tucker before the final Epilogue. Music Director Kent Wilson does a great job playing the piano supporting the emotions conveyed by the performers while keeping the pacing of the show. Considering the face shield/vocal challenge, Vocal Director Kimberly Kelley did a great job bringing life to the lyrics, dynamics to the vocal performances, and gave the actors room to sound like real people we can all relate to. Show Director Tim Kelley did quite well tackling the challenges of bringing a show to the stage under current restrictions while keeping the heart of theater in tact.
The performers did a great job with the limited contact, blocking for the stage and cameras, and new safety measures. Laura Blackwell’s monologue in the midst of the music driven show felt a bit out of place at first; but, she delivers with such sincerity, it makes for a really solid moment which felt more true to life for me than other scenes. Costuming and make-up left a bit to be desired as some cast members seemed like they were still in rehearsal mode with ill-fitting/unflattering costuming and little-to-no make-up or hair styling while other cast members looked fully polished with stage make-up and appropriate costuming for their character and body type. **To be fair, this could be the way the camera picks up the images versus the way we would’ve seen them onstage. Some scenes looked like filmed rehearsals instead of performances. I am totally nit-picking, I know. **
After the Show
This show is ultimately fun to watch, the songs are catchy, and people will relate to the relationship pitfalls and quirks about meeting someone and falling in love. The team did an excellent job with the new format, staging, and safety precautions while keeping the spirit of theater alive. I asked Tim what the show’s theme meant to him and what he hopes people will take away from it. He answered: “The theme to me means that relationships can be good, bad, funny and ugly. Many different colors of the rainbow in that regard. But what I personally get out of it….is that it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I think Michael and Alice at the end put a nice little bow on the entire package. And that people just enjoy it really.” I think he sums up the show perfectly and what most people will experience watching the show.
One Other Thing
While the cast is an excellent mix of personalities and vocal styles; it lacked in racial diversity. Director Tim Kelley let me know no one of color auditioned and those he reached out to declined as they couldn’t commit to the production schedule. He also said he’s working on having more “diverse casts with better representation” in the future. Between directing shows at The Majestic and Albany Civic Theatre, hopefully he can make that happen. While The Majestic has done an excellent job over the last few years bending the conformity of gender and celebrating relationships and human connections over the many rainbow levels it expresses, racial diversity has been an ongoing issue with many in the community asking for more representation of people of color and under-represented groups. The Majestic’s Zoom summer series made great strides regarding racial diversity using public domain plays performed without restrictions of racial, gender, physicality, or sexuality. So many wonderful people were cast in shows, and in roles they may not have been considered for on the main stage or Reader’s Theatre, for the first time! I’m hoping directors take this into consideration when casting upcoming staged productions. Baby steps sometimes need to be giant leaps in order to really make a difference and someone always “has to go first” for people to get over the hurdle. I think people are ready for it. I know I am 🙂
While this show is no longer available to watch, the Pay What You Can model is designed to allow people with limited budgets to see the show while offering those with a little more room in their wallets an opportunity to pay more and subsidize this and future shows. After all, theater is for everyone no matter the size of the wallet. Or purse. Or fanny pack. Or back pocket. Although, you really shouldn’t carry money in your back pocket as it could fall out or someone could pick-pocket your back pocket so you should probably keep it in your front pocket. I heard some people keep their money in their shoe or boot. I feel like the coins would make my feet hurt. Where ever you keep your money, this show’s for you!