Utah Repertory Theater’s production of i love you because at the Murray Theater is a tasty slice of the Big Apple. It’s a rare opportunity to see the Utah premiere of a wonderful off-Broadway musical.
i love you because (book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham, and music by Joshua Salzman) is loosely based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” with the gender roles reversed. Austin Bennet and Marcy Fitzwilliams meet one another in New York City as they are struggling to get over bad breakups. Austin is a straight-laced greeting card writer who lives his life according to carefully laid plans, and Marcy is a free spirit who thrives on spontaneity. Will they learn to love each in spite of their differences, or even because of them?
The storyline is engaging, the dialogue is witty, and the pop-musical theater score is appealing. It’s all anyone could want in a small-scale contemporary musical such as this.
Billy Hagee as Austin has a likability that practically compels the audience to root for him. His affable manner nicely counterpoints the character’s anal retentive tendencies. Hagee has a great singing voice and interesting acting choices.
Madeline Weinberger as Marcy adds zest and fire to any scene in which she appears. Her character is believable and easy to identify with, and her vocals are also very strong.
Brandon Roach and Jordan Hall shine as Austin’s brother, Jeff Bennet, and Marcy’s roommate, Diana Bingley, respectively. They add fun comic relief while simultaneously grounding Austin and Marcy with their advice.
Set designer Casey Price and costume designer Allen Stout are to be commended for their bold choices, which not only provide a look for the musical that is very New York but also highlight the journeys of the characters.
Kudos to director/choreographer Ashley Ramsey for successfully helming the production in a space not necessarily designed for a theatrical presentation such as this. The result is an authentic off-Broadway feel due to the Murray Theater’s historical roots, contemporary décor, and intimate nature.
If you want to feel like you’re in NYC without leaving Utah, there’s no better way than attending this well-produced show.
I Love You Because plays at the Murray Theater through April 5, 2013. To buy tickets and for more information, visit www.utahrep.org.
—Tyler Hinton, Broadway World, March 26, 2013