New Yorker Geremy Marra had no intention of sitting all the way through the smash hit musical, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, when he attended the Off-Broadway show with his girlfriend, Angela Del Core, Sept. 23.
At a designated point just before the end of the first act, Marra, 22, excused himself and told his girlfriend he was going to the bathroom. Covertly, Marra entered the lobby and was spirited backstage, from where he would make his entrance on stage and propose marriage to Del Core.
This was on-stage proposal No. 11 at the happily heterosexual musical revue that began its sixth year Aug. 1 at the Westside Theatre in Manhattan. The ways the men — and it has always been men — propose may vary, but the answer is always a yes.
"She didn't actually say the word — she was smiling, she kissed me and hugged me, and I took that as a yes," Marra told Playbill On-Line.
The proposals usually bring down the house and send the audience and the couple out of the theatre much happier than when they came. The Perfect/Change ritual began several years ago with an unsolicited call from a man who wanted a unique and surprising way to ask for his woman's hand. The show's general management company does not seek proposers; they usually come from nowhere. "Usually, it's a cold call out of the blue," the show's company manager, Michele Helberg, told Playbill On-Line. "Some afternoon, you get a phone call from somebody who has read online or heard from a friend that this has happened and asks if this would be possible for them..."
The question is popped after the regular curtain call, when someone from the show says, "We have one more thing, folks."
The audience goes wild when the Romeo asks his Juliet. "The audience was definitely into it the other night," Helberg said. "Considering what we as a city, a nation and an industry have been going through, it helped morale."
Are the proposers allowed to do anything they want? Within reason, Helberg said.
"We did have one gentleman a while ago who brought his own guitar and serenaded her," she said. "It depends on the individuals."
How did Marra hear about the chance to say "I love you" at I Love You?
"I was looking for a proposal idea and I typed 'wedding proposal ideas' into a search engine online," Marra told Playbill On-Line. Stories about past proposals at I Love You, You're Perfect appeared, and he said it sounded like a good idea. Marra, a compensation analyst for an advertising agency, said he was "extremely" nervous on stage, but was able to enjoy most of the show.
"The beginning of the show wasn't hard to follow, but toward the end, when I had to excuse myself, it was getting hard to concentrate," he said.
Del Core and Marra are planning a September 2002 wedding.
With more than 2,000 performances under its belt, the hit revue about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws has tallied more performances than the original Broadway runs of The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Cabaret and Evita.
On Jan. 7, 2001, Perfect/Change became the longest-running musical revue in Off-Broadway history, its 1,848 performances besting former title holder Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.
Since opening Aug. 1, 1996, the musical has grossed more than $18 million in New York and more than $40,000,000 worldwide.
Amanda Watkins, Adam Hunter, Jordan Leeds and Marylee Graffeo are the current cast members. Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and Jimmy Roberts (composer) have had success with the show throughout the world, in more than 20 resident stagings.
Joel Bishoff directs the New York staging, which one critic famously regarded as being like "Seinfeld" set to music.
For information on Perfect/Change at the Westside Theatre, 407 W. 43rd Street, call (212) 239-6200.
— By Kenneth Jones
and David Lefkowitz