‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ gets you at its most unexpected

I expected to laugh at the comedic depictions of modern love, but why did I get more emotional at an absurdly romantic scene where an old guy hits on an elderly woman at a funeral, of all places?

Much of the fanfare that surrounded Repertory Philippines’ promotions of the Manila staging of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” focused on the emotional rollercoaster that is modern love. 

On opening night, the musical delivered on that hype, especially in the first act. You have characters in a bustling city swiping left and right incessantly on their smartphones, first dates wherein people put up fronts (or lie outright) to impress hopeless causes, or women receiving unsolicited pictures of their date’s dick. 

The predominantly young crowd couldn’t help bursting into laughter, and there seemed to be an implicit understanding that they weren’t just laughing at the antics of the actors; they were laughing precisely because they’ve been in their shoes. It’s bittersweet. 

Marvin Ong and Gabby Padilla playing characters who are going through a painfully awkward first date at “A Stud and a Babe.” Photos from Repertory Philippines.

This isn’t to say that the more “mature” members of the audience—married couples, divorcees, and silver-haired individuals—were alienated by the contemporary touches of the musical. After all, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” premiered in 1996, holding the record of the second longest-running musical Off-Broadway. Even with the tweaks to some of the lines and songs to fit today’s audiences, REP’s staging still managed to hook those who’ve watched the musical decades ago, especially with the second act. 

And oddly enough, while the latter part of the musical deals with everything that happens after marriage (or its unfortunate demise), it’s in the second act that I felt more moved to tears by the performances of Gabby Padilla, Krystal Kane, Gian Magdangal, and Marvin Ong.

Krystal Kane and Gian Magdangal act out “Tear Jerk,” which is probably one of the funniest scenes in the first act.

While the first act banked on the familiarity of younger audiences to the woes of modern dating to make itself effective, the second half leaned heavily on brilliant acting chops for us to empathize with couples questioning their love within a marriage, a divorcee trying her hand at online love, and even an elderly man hitting on his fellow senior at a funeral!

In fact, I couldn’t forget those particular scenes (“Funerals are for Dating” and “I Can Live With That”), even if I was wildly entertained by the funny bits of the first half. Magdangal and Kane navigate what was set up to be a grim scene with the right amounts of comedy and wistfulness, engaging in witty banter that only old people can do (jokes about maintenance medicine, anyone?). And when things suddenly take on an uncharacteristically romantic turn, the actors get all giddy and awkward. Yes, they are laden with the grief of having been left behind by their dearly beloved many years ago, but they are also piqued by what seems to be a new spark—yes, even in their old age. 

“Funerals are for Dating” and “I Can Live With That” were powerful moments that thematically looped the musical back to the premise it established at the beginning of the first act—that we’re all just fools and dumb in love at the start, and that’s fine.

It’s the perfect full circle moment to a musical that welcomes its audiences with characters who are just as apprehensive to take that shot at romance, albeit in a different place and time. Or perhaps, that’s the point of the whole performance: that whoever we are, wherever we are at in life, and however old we get, we’re just all perfectly imperfect human beings when it comes to love. 

Catch ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’ at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati, this weekend and on its last few runs on the first weekend of July.

The new lifestyle.