The good news and not-so-good news about "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" is that it's a charming little musical idea. The four performers are easily likable, showing off terrific comic timing and fine voices for the serviceable tunes.
There's plenty to like and even chuckle about in the thematically linked vignettes dealing with dating, romance and marriage. There's also enough to yawn about in the cliché-ridden sketches, so that one wonders exactly how this show has become such a phenomenon.
The musical written by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts had a New York production in which it ran from 1996 to 2008. Since then it's become a worldwide regional theater staple with productions in cities including London, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo. The songs have been translated into Hebrew, Spanish, Dutch, Czech, Catalan, Finnish, Mandarin and Norwegian, so the material apparently speaks to people everywhere.
The new Cosmopolitan Cabaret production is ably directed by Glenn Casale, with versatile actors Michael Dotson, Jerry Lee, Jennifer Malenke and Melissa WolfKlain popping in and out of the dozen-plus characters. The musical director and pianist is Graham Sobelman.
Opening with "Cantata for a First Date," the songs in the two-act production move through a rough trajectory of courtship that ends at a funeral parlor, where a widow and widower negotiate a reasonable friendship during a viewing.
The sweet-natured "I Can Live With That" has all the best attributes of the show, with the affable Dotson and a wary WolfKlain each displaying enough vulnerability, longing and loyalty to their former spouses that the real story is told through the duration of the song, which has the most depth of anything in the show.
That scene starkly contrasts with the first skit of the night in which the same two actors meet for an evening, which becomes the template for speed dating as they comically decide to theoretically skip through the ups and down of the superficial relationship they will never have. The beautifully voiced Lee gives an enchanting performance of "Shouldn't I Be Less in Love With You?"
Lee and Malenke also have a fine duet in "A Stud and a Babe" when their two rather nebbish characters realize they are not the stuff that erotic dreams are made of but have an attraction for each other just the same.
Less successful are tunes such as "Why? 'Cause I'm a Guy" and "The Baby Song."
The show works best when it's at its most generous, smiling at the difficulties of romance we all understand or gently acknowledging the compromises we make to live with someone else.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
What: The popular musical about romance takes its turn at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, through Nov. 18.
Where: The Cosmopolitan Cabaret, 1000 K St.
Information: (916) 557-1999, www.californiamusicaltheatre.com or Tickets.com,
(800) 225-2277 Time: One hour and 50 minutes including oneintermission