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Jenkins performs a 'Perfect' union

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With 16 months until his wedding, David Jenkins finds himself fully immersed in domestic discussions on the fruits of a solid union. The 38-year-old is pairing personal experience with romance with professional examinations of amore as the music and vocal director for the Walnut Street Theatre-situated production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.”

“Oh, this show definitely encroaches on reality,” the resident of the 600 block of Fitzwater Street said of the Off-Broadway smash that will continue to fascinate Philadelphia audiences through Sunday. “It is hysterically funny, and people will be able to recognize so many aspects of their own relationships.”

With more than 140 productions to his name, the Bella Vista dweller is adoring his sixth Walnut Street Theatre assignment since 2012, a ledger that includes last spring’s “DINO! An Evening with Dean Martin at the Latin Casino” by West Passyunk native Armen Pandola. Linking its light lyrics with his proficient piano playing and a violinist’s verve, Jenkins has admired the work over its 18-year existence, even helming an ’09 summer stock theatre incarnation.

“Anything for the Walnut is always amazing, and this musical is no different,” he said of the piece, whose tagline is “Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws but were afraid to admit.” “Each scene offers different situations, different looks at love and attraction but all in that sort of life-imitates-art motif.”

With songs such as “Men Who Talk and the Women Who Pretend They’re Listening,” “Why? ’Cause I’m a Guy” and “Marriage Tango,” the two-act comedy has garnered national acclaim as the second-longest running Off Broadway brainchild and international renown, too, a track record that has Jenkins eager to bring its message of nurturing love to an immense crescendo.

“I’m having a great time, and the responses have been pleasant,” the musician said of the marriage between his talent and the performers’ devotion. “With so much talk about the complexity of relationships, it’s good to get at the heart of the simple qualities of sharing our lives with someone. Musical theater does that quite well, so I’m fortunate to have this chance to express that.”

For most of his life, the Scranton native has called on music as a unifying blessing and has expressed appreciation for each stop on his journey, with South Philly factoring into his gratitude for three years. Taking up the violin initially, he gravitated toward his present instrument as a high school sophomore and absorbed a mix of classical, standard and contemporary pieces.

“I had great instructors and kind of taught myself for some time, too,” Jenkins said of his maturation as a youth. “It all seemed to make great sense to become so involved in music, as it started to give me direction and has led to an amazing collection of experiences.”

Still pondering his path as his high school days dwindled, he learned that although being a violin practitioner would craft creative satisfaction, it would not necessarily lead to much professional windfall. Hearing that a career as a pianist might prove slightly more attainable, he selected 88 keys over four strings as a Wilkes University enrollee.

“No route as a professional musician is an easy route, so I had no presumptions that everything would just fall into my lap,” Jenkins said. “I’d heard the whole world would be open to me as a pianist, so I accepted that view and pressed on.”

As a collegiate, he contemplated “playing it safe” as he molded his vocational prospects, thinking his tutelage would help him to teach choir or general music or situate him within the world of community theater. Suffering a left hand injury during his junior year, he experienced an epiphany when consulting a mentor, confessing that he would love to play shows on Broadway. Assured of his technique’s formidability and potency as a classically trained conductor, he set out to maximize his momentum, an aspiration that came to fruition in New York.

“I spent 13 years there, a terrific period for getting a great sense of how I could contribute to musical theater’s progression,” Jenkins said of his integration into his field, which has bred jobs in 49 states and several foreign countries, Broadway duties and national tour assignments. “It’s a captivating calling to be in musical theater, and I’ve definitely connected with amazing people and have really fallen for works that are going to stand the test of time.”

The appreciative individual lauded musical theater for its ability to “pull people into this realm of deeper connections” through emphasizing enriching storytelling.

“The visceral feeling of the score leads to so much introspection but also a sense of camaraderie,” Jenkins said. “Who wouldn’t count himself or herself lucky to get to explore that as a job?”

Deeming his endeavors “magical and worth toiling for,” he has become acquaintances with many local pursuers of stage-based glory and has instructed many such enthused figures for two years at the University of the Arts. Set to make the transition from visiting assistant professor to music director of the location’s Ira Brind School of Theater Arts, Jenkins looks forward to continuing to compel fellow admirers of note-infused expression to proceed as the future of their shared passion.

“No matter what they’re into, they’re going to be leaders,” he said of his charges. “Their future looks bright.”

His literally does, too, as he and his fiancee are planning a July vacation, the conclusion of which will have him contemplating his professional projects and the composition of a children’s musical. No matter the task, Jenkins knows he will never retreat to avoiding risks and will continue to seek accord through chords.

“Like I said, no route is easy,” he reiterated. “That doesn’t mean this is any less rewarding or enriching. It’s been quite fun.” 

For tickets, visit walnutstreettheatre.org.

Contact Managing Editor Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com or ext. 124.

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