Dorset Players wrap up season with hit musical

Local troupe opens crowd pleaser "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change"

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DORSET — The show has been around for two decades, with few breaks from active production, and with good reason: it makes people tap their feet, and laugh.

That was good enough for the Dorset Players, who are wrapping up their 89th season starting Friday night with a run of the musical comedy "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," directed by longtime Player mainstay Suzi Dorgeloh, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, and music by Jimmy Roberts.

"I Love You" has the distinction of being the second-longest running Off Broadway musical, running from 1996-2008 with 5,003 performances at New York's Westside Theatre.

Musical direction is by Gary Schmidt, who will also play the piano. Choreography is by Erika Lawlor Schmidt. Rounding out the music will be Francois Secordel on violin.

The play is set in two acts, with multiple vignettes presented as scenes, some alluding to a storyline from earlier, but all stand on their own thematically. The stories evolve in a way that demonstrates a direction to relationships during the course of one's life.

For example, a first date would precede any vignette having to do with married life, and then a scene addressing marriage would come before a story on parenting. The show, which typically calls for four actors, instead will have a total of eight coming and going, and all playing multiple parts.

Dorgeloh said the play was suggested to her by Gary Schmidt, whose daughter was on Broadway for a decade and had acted in it. She added that along with choreographer Erika Schmidt, the group decided to open up the show to more than the original production of two men and two women doing all the roles.

"We auditioned a dozen people in December with singing and movement, and came up with a strong, talented cast of five men and four women" Dorgeloh said. "Once the actors were chosen, we needed to put the right person by gender, age, and voice with the right role."

Everyone in the cast, Dorgeloh continued, and most of the crew have full-time careers and many have families. Dorgeloh herself is pulling double duty, serving as both director and producer. So the rehearsal schedule, which began in February, had to be flexible to everyone's needs, she said.

That cast includes Joey Blane, Antonio Giamati, Richard Grip, Dana Haley, Drew Hill, Laura King, Lillian Kelly, Kevin O'Toole, and Christopher Restino.

O'Toole, also a local attorney, said he is ready to take on five roles in five different scenes. He added that a musical can get intricate and requires many levels of coordination.

"As an actor, being in a musical generally involves a greater time commitment, as one must work out the music before blocking the scenes can be attempted," O'Toole said. "Here, that means that music director Gary Schmidt had to meet with us as a group and individually to ensure that we were singing what is on the page. There are several harmonies in the show and if everyone is not careful to stay in their own lane, it becomes noise."

O'Toole explained that in musicals actors have to adjust to singing as they are moving to make the scene believable while delivering their rendition of a song with an interpretation of that character.

"It may be just knowing when in the song to sit, stand, dance or whatever," O'Toole said. "It may be more, and depends on the scene. My roles are a solipsistic clueless date whose main defense is `because I'm a guy,' a convicted mass murderer, a clergyman, a fellow married for thirty years who over the morning paper at the breakfast table with his spouse of thirty years, asks to himself `shouldn't I be less in love with you?, `and a widower who tries to pick up a widow at a wake."

The variety of O'Toole's roles caught the ear of Dorset Players board president Angie Merwin, who, along with being the show's light designer, was quick to point out such variety of humorous but oh-too-human situations is reason enough for the public to come see "I Love You."

"I read the script, watched a few rehearsals, and have consulted with the director," Merwin said. "Although I have never seen this play, I had heard it was funny and the script confirmed that. It wasn't until I watched the first (rough) rehearsal that I found myself laughing hysterically at the antics on stage. Suzi [Dorgeloh] has put together the perfect cast for this insane musical. Great music, tender moments and lots of fun. Don't miss it."

"I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" will play from May 19 - 28 at The Dorset Player, 104 Cheney Rd., Dorset. Info and tickets: dorsetplayers.org or 802-867-5777

Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias @TellyHalkias

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