In its original form, Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ song cycle was one of the longest-running shows Off-Broadway. Since its premiere in 1996 it has popped up in theatres around the world and been translated into 17 different languages. In 2017 the authors rejigged the piece to bring it up to date by including contemporary references and same-sex couples.
Director Charlotte Westenra’s uncluttered production at the renamed Chiswick Playhouse embraces these changes. The easy, playful charm of the original remains intact and the more recent alterations show how issues surrounding love, relationships and parenthood transcend gender and sexuality.
The vignette Whatever Happened to Baby’s Parents? now features a lesbian couple, while Funerals Are for Dating shows two widowers flirting at a wake. These changes feel celebratory and help breathe new life into an old show.
The versatile four-person cast has an easy chemistry and brings as much to the dramatic monologues as to the musical numbers. Naomi Slights brings unexpected strength to The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz while George Rae displays an adorable vulnerability in The Lasagna Incident. Laura Johnson ensures that Always a Bridesmaid remains a showstopper and Dominic Hodson displays astute comic timing in Tear Jerk.
Some of the accents may waver but the show remains a lovable, if lightweight, diversion.