I love you because…

Have I mentioned that I absolutely love musical theatre? I really do.

Need proof? This is me as Elphaba (in Lush’s Mask of Magnaminty) singing Defying Gravity in my apartment in my second year at Queen’s. My blonde housemate, Kathleen, made the perfect Galinda.

So, you can imagine how psyched I was when Angelwalk Theatre invited me to preview their new show, the Canadian premiere of I Love You Because. Billed as a modern-day Pride and Prejudice and set in NYC, ILYB is a feel-good romantic comedy that makes for the perfect date. I know this because I dragged my boyfriend…and he actually liked it! I thought a smaller production like ILYB might be a bit of a stretch for him, since the only musical he’s ever attended is American Idiot, but I was pleasantly surprised to find him chuckling right along beside me.

The premise: Austin (Jeff Madden) and Marcy (Elena Juatco) both find themselves single – Austin heartbroken by the love of his life and Marcy splitting from boyfriend #27. With the help of bad-boy brother Jeff (Jay Davis) and smart-alec best friend Diana (Gabi Epstein), Austin and Marcy both decide to get back in the saddle, albeit for different reasons. In a quest to rekindle lost romance (Austin) and finally find true love (Marcy), hilarity, heartbreak and romance ensue – all encouraged by the friendly neighbourhood baristas/bartenders (Michael De Rose and Cara Leslie).

Cara Leslie (NYC Woman), Gabi Epstein (Diana), Jeff Madden (Austin), Jay Davis, Michael DeRose (NYC Man) in the opening number

Although it’s often the case (especially in smaller productions) that one member of the cast carries the show, the complete opposite was true in ILYB. The chemistry between each of the six actors was palpable, encouraging the audience to root for the pairs throughout the show, and the actors’ vocals were astounding across the board. It helps that the cast is completely stacked with Dora award-winning and nominated actors, familiar faces from productions like Urinetown and Blood Brothers, Canadian Idol finalist (and Queen’s grad) Elena Juatco and Jeff Madden from Dancap’s Jersey Boys.

Elena Juacto (Marcy) and Jeff Madden (Austin)

The best part of this quirky musical is that it’s completely relatable. Who hasn’t gone on a mission to rebound with Mr. Wrong in an attempt to later find Mr. Right? Numbers about the rules of dating (don’t call for 3 days, no sex for 4 weeks), not wanting to talk about your ex and how friends with benefits inevitably turns into the girl wanting more were all too familiar, in the best possible way. Like Avenue Q, I Love You Because’s numbers resulted in a lot of knowing smiles and head nodding.

Jay Davis (Jeff) & Jeff Madden (Austin)

Just in case you needed another reason to go, I present you Jay Davis, shirtless. Yes, he strips down to his comic-printed (tighty-whitey) skivvies. Yes, it’s magical.

I Love You Because is a can’t-miss modern day musical love story. It runs March 28- April 15 at the Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio Theatre. Tickets are $30 – $45 (look for the under-30 pricing) and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.


** All production photos courtesy of Angelwalk Theatre