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Toby’s Dinner Theater I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

By • Feb 7th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change Book and Lyrics by Jo DiPietro, Music by Jimmy Roberts
Toby’s Dinner Theater
Toby’s Dinner Theater, Columbia, MD
Through February 28th
2:00, with one intermission
$46-$51/Children $32.50-$51
Reviewed January 31, 2010

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Toby’s Dinner Theatre presents I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, a realistic and very funny tribute to the eternal quest for a mate, with all the humor and terror of dating, the long term effects of relationships, the challenges of the modern marriage and parenthood, and more. It was nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award as Outstanding Off-Broadway musical in 1997 and holds the record as second longest running Off Broadway musical, closing in 2008 after 5,003 performances in a 12-year run.

Shawn Kettering and Douglas Lawler (the same team behind Toby’s successful production of Annie this season) present the fast-paced vignettes with laugh-out-loud moments to which we all seem to relate somehow.

Kettering is also a part of the ensemble of four, including David James, Debra Buonaccorsi, Janine Gulisano-Sunday. It’s tricky directing one’s self, but this production works fabulously well. There are standout moments for everyone here. Highlights include: A Stud and a Babe (David and Debra), the howlingly funny Tear Jerk (Shawn and Janine), “Satisfaction Guaranteed” (Ensemble), “The Family that Drives Together…” (Ensemble), “Sex and the Married Couple” (Shawn and Janine) and the stunningly touching “Funerals are for Dating (David and Janine).” There’s excellent material and plenty to relate to on both sides of the aisle here.

Special mention goes to Gulisano-Sunday (who also designed the costumes) for “Always a Bridesmaid,” part of a pastiche of scenes that tie Acts 1 and 2 together. She wears what is possibly the worst bridesmaid dress I have ever seen, which is simply perfect for this scene. In fact, the costumes are just right throughout the production. David A. Hopkins’ deceptively simple set, Colleen M. Foley’s very effective lighting and Drew Dedrick’s sound design complete the picture.

Aside from a notable failure to mention alternate lifestyles, which might have made this a truly all-encompassing search for happiness amid the stress of dating and relationships, the biblical conceit (Prologue and Epilogue) that’s meant to tie the individual scenes together doesn’t quite work, for which I blame DiPietro and Roberts. The Epilogue, in particular, falls just a bit flat in comparison to the richly imagined snapshots of life in the love and relationships game. Kettering, Lawler and the cast have worked hard to rise above the flawed material, though, and they accomplish it with excellent performances and impeccable comic timing culminating in an enjoyable event overall.

A caution to parents: This production includes both adult language and situations and is not recommended for children.

Program Notes

This hilarious show is a tribute to those who have loved and lost and to those who have dared to ask “What are you doing Saturday night?”

I Love You, You’re Perfect, NOW CHANGE is presented in the form of a series of vignettes connected by the central theme of love and relationships. The play’s tagline is “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit.” With few exceptions, the scenes stand independent of the others, but progress in a fashion designed to suggest an overall arc to relationships throughout the course of one’s life. A first date, for example, comes before scenes dealing with marriage, and scenes dealing with marriage come before those dealing with child rearing.

The musical premiered at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre, New York City, on August 1, 1996 and closed on July 27, 2008, after 5,003 performances. Directed by Joel Bishoff.

Photo Gallery

I Love You_0197 I Love You_0371
I Love You_0440

Photos by Toby’s Dinner Theater

The Cast

  • David: David James
  • Debra: Debra Buonaccorsi
  • Janine: Janine Gulisano-Sunday
  • Shawn: Shawn Kettering


  • David: Dan Sontag
  • Shawn: David Bosley-Reynolds
  • Debra & Janine: Heather Marie Beck


  • Piano / Conductor: Douglas Lawler or Greg Knauf
  • Bass: Frank Higgins or Mary Scott

Production Staff

  • Director: Shawn Kettering
  • Musical Director: Douglas Lawler
  • Set Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Costume Designer: Janine Sunday
  • Lighting Designer: Coleen M. Foley
  • Sound Designer: Drew Dedrick
  • Production Stage Manager: Kate Wackerle
  • Stage Managers: Drew Dedrick, Kate Wackerle
  • Master Carpenter: Jason Krznarich
  • Set Construction: Russell Sunday, Jason Krznarich, Corey Brown
  • Properties and Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Sound Operators: Drew Dedrick, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Stage Crew: Erin MacDonald, Jeanie McAlpine, Danny Clemens

Theatre Staff

  • Artistic Director: Toby Orenstein
  • General Manager: Joel Friedman
  • Assistant Manager: Patrick Albright
  • Form Manager: Steve Lewis
  • Chef / Kitchen Manager: Chuck Cofield
  • Chef / Assistant Kitchen Manager: Anthony Beachum
  • Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Cheryl Clemens
  • Assistant Director of Group Sales / Tour and Travel: Audrey Kyle
  • Director of Marketing: Nancy Michel
  • Bookkeeper: Bayna Castner
  • Box Office Manager: Judy Abrams
  • Associate Artistic Directors: David A. Hopkins, Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Production Manager: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Production Intern: Daniel Clemens
  • Technical Director: Dave Beahm
  • Assistant Technical Director: Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Theatre Photography / Website Developer: Kirstine Christiansen
  • Youth Theatre Administrator: Toba Barth
  • Bar Manager: Shawn Kettering
  • Box Office Staff: Judy Berry, Laura Blasi, Mary Dempsey, Lynae Harris, Breena Hebron, Estelle King, Clare Krasnick, Marie Moineau, Pat Wright
  • Group Sales Hosting Staff: Paula Jones, Denise Steadman, Bonnie Ciborowski,
  • Sandy Ciborowski, Heidi Berry, Marsha Raymond
  • Maintenance Engineers: Stephen B. Harris, Mike Monahan

Toby’s Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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