Monday, January 26, 2009


Bouncy, spirited, charming ‘I LOVE YOU BECAUSE’ delights on 14th Street

Most productions presented as part of the Key Bank Broadway Series are touring companies of Broadway shows. Not so with ‘I LOVE YOU BECAUSE,’ the present offering. This show is home grown. The cast, the musicians, the director, the choreographer are all Cleveland based.

The story concerns obsessive compulsive Austin, a conservative greeting card writer, who discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him. In an attempt to get Austin out of his funk, Jeff, his not overly bright brother, takes him on a double blind-date. Enter Marcy, a free-spirited photographer, Austin’s exact opposite. At the same time, Marcy's best friend, the uptight actuary Diana, who is probably the logical choice for Austin, begins an unlikely affair with Jeff. And….well…their isn’t much mystery as to what’s going to happen, in spite of the numerous pitfalls. Emotional love wins out over logical logic!
The whole premise is well developed through Ryan Cunningham’s creative lyrics. For example, the last song of the show states, “I love you because you’re not the person I dreamed of at all. I love you because you make me feel like a fool.” Not exactly the usual lyrics of a love song. And, that’s the beauty of the show. In spite of the obvious conclusion, the whole thing works because it is logically illogical.
The show, in which Cunningham’s lyrics are set to sprightly music by Joshua Salzman, was first performed off-Broadway in 2006. The Big Apple run was followed by a British production.

The Cleveland offering is directed by Victoria Bussert, with creative staging and choreography by Martin Céspedes. Bussert, director of nationally praised Music Theatre Program at Baldwin-Wallace, is a magician in taking small musicals and making them shine. Think of her stagings of ‘BROOKLYN, THE MUSICAL,’ ‘BAT BOY,’ ‘SIDE SHOW,’ and ‘TICK, TICK BOOM.’ Her recent collaborations with Céspedes, such as Great Lakes Theatre’s ‘INTO THE WOODS,’ have a special sheen.

The entire cast of ‘I LOVE YOU BECAUSE’ shines. Especially endearing is young Corey Mach, he of “deer caught in the headlights” sparkling blue eyes, flushing face, and fine acting ability, added to a nice singing voice. He is wonderful as the obsessive, fidgeting, confused Austin. His “Maybe We Just Made Love” is charming.

Matt Lillo, as the well-meaning, but air-headed Jeff, is delightful. His many malapropisms are delivered with such natural sincerity, that the audience convulses as he tries to get “all his ducks in a line.”

Attractive Jessica Cope has a fine singing voice and gives just the right flair to Marcy. Her rendition of the ballad, “Even Though,” was charming.

Jodi Dominick (Diana), is properly “up-tight,” and develops the right nuances.

Kyle Primous and Ursula Cataan are mighty fine in multiple roles.

Matthew Webb’s musical direction is on target. He wisely keeps the instrumental sounds down, so that they underscore, rather than drown out the vocals.

Stan Kozak’s contemporary glass brick set looks good, but the constant shuffling around of furniture to represent the various settings gets tiresome.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘I LOVE YOU BECAUSE’ is a total delight, a perfect entertainment escape from the cold and depressing Cleveland winter. Go, enjoy, you’ll feel great, have a smile on your face, as you come out humming the songs.