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I love you, you're perfect...

The title of the musical that will kick off Clackamas Repertory Theatre's summer season on July 6, says it all: 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.'

'The play starts at the beginning of time,' said David Smith-English, the production's director and artistic director and department chair of Clackamas Community College's Communications and Theatre Arts Department.

He continued, 'It deals with the relationships between men and women - how they start, dating, getting married, becoming young parents, living with relatives. It goes through every step of the way until the end of their lives.'

Smith-English said that the musical portrays 'romantic relationships at all ages - how they clash sometimes. And at the end, people who've lost their mates find each other. Yes, they never stop loving their mates, but they have some time to be together. Why be lonely?'

The play, written by Joe DiPietro, has been 'running for 10 years off-Broadway,' Smith-English noted, so it is an obvious audience pleaser.

When he heard the music for the first time, he said it stuck in his head. He described the musical numbers as 'all different styles,' ranging from 'country music, to reggae, Samba, Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inspired and Doo-Wop.'

He added, 'It's an array of sounds that underscores and backs each of the scenes in a wonderful way.'

This is the first musical that the CRT has taken on, and Smith-English said the four-actor show 'fits into the size of our current capability, plus it's a doozy, a beauty of a show. I'm just so pleased with the cast. They are endearing and they sing beautifully - all of them.'

He also spoke highly of the two-person band that provides the musical accompaniment for the show.

Bass player Tom Wakeling is the Clackamas Community College music department chair, and Smith-English said Wakeling was 'a big-time professional bass player,' who has 'played with every [big-name] person to come along.'

Of piano player Edward Cremo, Smith-English said, he 'plays for Oregon Ballet Theatre and is a great [musical] coach.'

He added, 'In a musical, if the music isn't central, and if the performers aren't fine singers, you can still have a decent show. But you don't have that next dimension. [Cast members] Donzelle Richard-son and Dawnie Drebin are up-coming stars, and Todd Hermanson and Leif Norby are great singers and actors. Each one brings a separate and definite quality' to this production.

The big challenge of the musical is that the four actors play 64 roles.

Both Richardson and Drebin are members of the CRT company, and both are Oregon City High School graduates.

Richardson, who graduated in 1998, said she relished the 'opportunity to develop each character. That challenge is great - all the other actors are so good.'

Drebin, a 1997 graduate, noted that for her 'it's been interesting' learning how to portray the same types of characters differently.

'It's a challenge - how are these two business women different?' she said.

She added that audiences will really appreciate the 'universal feeling of the show - the ups and downs of relationships.'

New to the company this year is Leif Norby, who said he moved to the Portland area in 1992, and the theatre work 'has been non-stop ever since.'

In this musical, he noted that he did not have a favorite character, as 'they are all so cool. All the little vignettes, all the stories, are so different - one role I'm really into, then another role strikes my fancy. This show is one of my favorite shows.'

Another newcomer to CRT is Todd Hermanson, who said his improvisational training has helped him play the numerous characters in this musical.

'It gives me the confidence to experiment during rehearsal. I try different readings with different characters,' he said.

Hermanson added, 'The other actors are outstanding and it's been great working with David - he's a patient and enjoyable director.'

Smith-English said that audiences will like the music and performances in 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change,' and, he added, the 'set is spectacular and the band is top-notch,' as are the costumes.

Cynthia Smith-English, David Smith-English's wife, and also an instructor in CCC's Communications and Theatre Arts Department, noted that she has set up Friday nights to be special occasions for theatre goers.

That night, audience members can 'enjoy a gourmet picnic' for $13, right inside the Niemeyer Center where the Osterman Theater is located, on campus.

'We can open all the windows,' or people can sit just outside to enjoy the feast, Cynthia Smith-English said.

Those who wish to enjoy such treats as grilled chicken breast, ricotta cheese and sautéed spinach crepes with a summer squash medley, salads and dessert, among other menu items, will need to make an additional reservation for the meal, she noted.

She added, 'This theatre is a really nice place to see a show - it's wonderfully intimate, and the parking situation is a plus.'