CPCC goes small with great results

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I’m not sure CPCC has staged a musical at Pease Auditorium since they opened the mighty Halton Theater on the other side of Elizabeth Avenue, but they’ve done it now with a production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change that compares quite favorably with the notorious Charlotte Rep production of 2004.

With Patrick Ratchford and Susan Roberts Knowlson in their umpteenth hookup at CPCC, the explanation for the excellence is readily understood. Ratchford is particularly eye-opening under Billy Ensley’s direction, surpassing himself most memorably in “The Baby Song” as a besotted jibberish-spouting newcomer to fatherhood. Knowlson meanwhile reminds us of her enduring gifts as a comedienne in the “He Called Me” episode, endowing her anxiety and jubilation with quadruple exclamation points.

The other couple in the mix – 20 separate scenes by Joe DiPietro chronicling the epic of heterosexual romance since the Big Bang – keeps up the high Knowlson/Ratchford standard. Lisa Smith Bradley already has a local résumé that makes further superlatives superfluous, but we don’t see Dan Brunson nearly as frequently as we might, say, in a city where professional musical theater flourished. When he last appeared in Closer Than Ever with Collaborative Arts, I remarked that he’ll seem like a fresh newcomer to most, and that observation still holds. The Brunson/ Bradley comedy team clicks most tellingly deep into Act 2 in “Marriage Tango” where, as husband-and-wife, they try multitasking sex with parenting.

Now the Rep production made a rather lurid splash, checking in as the second-highest grossing show in the company’s history behind Angels in America – an inconvenient truth when the board dissolved the organization the following month, citing Charlotte’s lack of support. But you can vicariously relive that history for one more weekend at Pease and revel in all the solid reasons why I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was such a solid hit. It covers a lot of ground in 110 minutes, and all of it is fertile.

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