It can be extremely challenging for emerging troupes to stake their claim within Dayton’s continuously expansive theater scene. However, Dare to Defy Productions has done so with highly entertaining ease as evidenced in its very charming production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ hit 1996 off-Broadway musical revue.
Presented in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center fashioned in a colorful 1950s, Roy Lichtenstein–inspired decor by set designer Ray Zupp, “I Love You…” paints an amusing, appealing portrait of the relatable ups and downs of love and relationships from dating disasters and personal insecurities to wedding jitters and family squabbles.
Framing the show as vignettes keeps the witty action inviting and steadily paced, but there are signs the material has become dated since it was famously heralded as “‘Seinfeld’ set to music.” After all, Sharon Stone isn’t an apt lyric choice these days when referring to film bombshells. Nevertheless, that is a minor quibble among an otherwise playfully sound and surprisingly tender examination of the pursuit men and women undergo in order to find and cherish The One.
Director Rebecca Norgaard, Dare to Defy founder/CEO, assembles a totally engaging, vocally strong ensemble consisting of Jackie Darnell, Bobby Mitchum, Zach King and Mackensie Vonderbrink, familiar faces from Kettering’s Playhouse South. Inhabiting more than 50 roles, the cast, impressively accompanied by pianist Julia Brown and violinist Josh Vantilburgh, is versatile and sharply prepared which isn’t surprising considering this production was previously held in January and February at Mimi’s Café in Beavercreek. When featured as a foursome, the cast’s noteworthy moments include opening number “Cantata for a First Date,” funny double bill “Single Man Drought”/”Why? Cause I’m a Guy,” and the equally comical “Hey There, Single Gal/Guy” that hilariously musicalizes a breakup from a parental perspective. Individually, they firmly step into the spotlight with character-conscious intent. Darnell, a fine soprano, supplies a beautifully gentle “I Will Be Loved Tonight” and is also an operatic joy during “He Called Me.” Mitchum, one of the best tenors in town, fills the moving ballad “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love with You?” with compellingly mature wonder. King, a source of comic relief, scores big laughs with “The Baby Song.” Vonderbrink, in one of her most endearing appearances, fully embraces “Always a Bridesmaid” with lovelorn radiance.
Dare to Defy’s promising path has only begun, but if the company’s future productions are as good as “I Love You…” I have a feeling audiences will keep coming back.
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” concludes today in the Mathile Theatre of the Schuster Center, Second and Main Streets, Dayton. Performances are at 2 and 8 p.m. Act One: 57 minutes; Act Two: 55 minutes. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visiting www.ticketcenterstage.com. For more information about Dare to Defy auditions and its 2014 season (featuring “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Altar Boyz,” “Rent” and “Nunsense”) visit daretodefyllc.com, call (937) 999-9949 or send an e-mail to [email protected].