Ever think that it is great to be living in the early years of the twenty-first century where, when it comes to love and romance, you are free to be who you and to do what you want without any hidebound rules in place to hinder your progress? If so then, my friend you couldn’t me more wrong. Think I’m making it up? Well go along to the London Theatre Workshop and see I Love You Because and you will realise I’m right.
Saturday night in New York and for sensible, conservative, greetings card writer Austin (Jamie Jones) that can only mean one thing. He is off to meet his girlfriend for their regular night out together. Austin is perfectly groomed, slacks and blazer with a tie done up in a regulation Windsor Knot. He picks up some flowers – as he does every Saturday night – and heads off to his girlfriend’s apartment where he finds her in the arms of another man. Austin is devastated by this and as he sees his life plans head off down the Swanee, he turns to his best friend and elder brother Jeff (Daniel Roberts) for help and advice. Not necessarily the best move as Jeff, who is a bit of a modern lad, has a very cynical take on dating and is, as far as relations with the opposite sex go, a bit of a muppet – which could explain his interesting choice of underwear – trying horrendous chat up lines on every woman he meets, including the ‘heard it all before’ barmaid (Abbie Mead).
Meanwhile, in another part of town, young, liberal intellectual Marcy (Vitalyia Harbord) is also distraught as she has just broken up with her boyfriend. Flatmate Diana (Rachel Wrighte) tries to cheer her up initially by pointing out the many faults of Marcy’s former paramour and then by suggesting they go out. Diana, is also a bit of cynic as far as love goes and suggests that Marcy moves on slowly by finding herself a ‘rebound guy’ to have some fun with before looking for a more serious relationship. Now New York is a big place and in a normal world these four would never meet but this being musical theatre, it turns out Jeff has subscribed to an online dating site and is due to meet up with Diana, who brings along her friend Marcy as a date for Jeff’s brother Austin. Could Austin be Marcy’s rebound guy and will Marcy be Austin’s way of getting back with his ex (a plan based on some very strange advice from Jeff). And what of Diana and Jeff, will they be able to enjoy the fun of being together as friends, potentially with benefits or will Cupid’s arrow have a try at piercing their cynical hearts?
Based on Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I Love You Because is as much a story about manners and morality as the original 1813 novel was. Love, it seems is a complicated now as it was in Elizabeth Bennet’s day. How soon after a date can one text? Should I put out on the third date or just go for it and hope he/she is still there tomorrow? Does ‘treat them mean, keep them keen really work? etc. It’s quite fascinating how the book, by Ryan Cunningham – who also wrote the lyrics with music by Joshua Salzman – has kept the essential parts of the original story but nicely transposed them to a modern day, New York setting. As a musical, the story works really well and there were a couple of songs, such as “the Actuary Song’, ‘Coffee’, ‘That’s What’s Gonna Happen’ and ‘But I Do’ that really stood out for me both as pieces in their own right and because of the way they gave a lovely insight into the character(s) singing them.
When it comes to the cast, the four leads were really good and Jamie Jones in particular not only had an outstanding singing voice but could do a tie up properly as well. I will be honest and say my favourite character was Jeff, a sort of Falstaffian figure to the more sedate Austen. Daniel Roberts played him extremely well and there were many wonderful moments when Jeff and Rachel Wrighte’s Diana virtually stole the show in their lovely pieces together – particularly when trying to have “relations” whilst one of them has a bad back. Marcy, as played by Vitalyia Harbord came across really well and with her winsome, almost hippy-like ways was the perfect foil to the stiff republican that was Austin. The rest of the characters were played by an ensemble team (James Rowney, Abbie Mead, Alfie Kentesber and Kall Songhurst) who were everything from Chinese waiters, to bar staff, to a NY Landlord (complete with string vest) and did a sterling job of moving the scenery around, though they need to take care as on occasion, the movement and sounds were a little distracting. Director Laurie Asher has put a young and talented cast together and made very good use of them to tell the story and the piano, under Musical Director Peter Dodsworth is a nice accompaniment and works well in the limited space.
All in all then I Love You Because is a really good musical that does a great job at bringing an ancient book completely up to date without losing any of the charm of the original. Hopefully, after this run is over, the show will be picked up for one of the larger venues nearer to the West End so that more people will get the chance to see this lovely show.
Review by Terry Eastham
Following a hugely successful run of ‘HOT MIKADO’ at The Lichfield Garrick Theatre earlier this year, critically acclaimed House of Greasepaint Productions are proud to bring the hilarious musical comedy ‘I LOVE YOU BECAUSE’ to London for a STRICTLY LIMITED RUN, opening on 24th November 2015 at London Theatre Workshop, Fulham.
I LOVE YOU BECAUSE is a modern twist on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set in contemporary New York City. A young, uptight greeting card writer’s life is changed when he meets a flighty photographer. Along with their eccentric friends and siblings, they learn to love each other not in spite of their faults, but because of them.
Originally staged on Off-Broadway at the Village Theatre and in London at the Landor Theatre, the show features music by Joshua Salzman with book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham.
Date: 24th to 28th NOVEMBER 2015
Times: All Performances Commence at 7.45pm
Director: Laurie Asher
Musical Director (Resident): Angharad Sanders
Musical Director (Production Run): Peter Dodsworth
Producer: House of Greasepaint Productions
Cast: Jamie Jones, Vitlayia Harbord, Rachel Wrighte, Daniel Roberts, Alfie Kentesber, Abbie Mead, James Rowney and Kaii Songhurst.