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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
I Do! I Do!
By Elyse Sommer
Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, a couple who were a triumphant example of an enduring on and off-stage marriage, made Jan de Hartog's play, The Fourposter, a stage and screen hit. Librettist and lyricist Tom Jones and composer Harvey Schmidt found the story of Agnes and Michael's 1898 to 1948 marriage something to sing about. Their admiration for the story resulted in the most intimate musicals ever. I Do! I Do! -- its title taken from the third song of the opening wedding scene -- opened at Broadway's 46th Street Theater in 1966, under Gower Champion's direction and starring Robert Preston and Mary Martin as the often sparring but forever together couple. It ran for 560 performances and from there went through some revisions by the authors and has enjoyed numerous other productions.
The Old Castle Theatre Company has mounted a dandy revival with two actors whose voices do credit to Schmidt's score and Jones's clever and touching lyrics. Set designer Kenneth Mooney has rounded off the stage, put the dominating fourposter set on wheels and backed it with sheer curtains through which we can glimpse the excellent three-piece combo.
To anticipate your question: Thirty-six years later, this single set two-hander that starts with the wedding night of a sexually uninitiated couple is just a bit quaint in this era of easy sex and smoke and mirrors production values. But that very quaintness and the Jones & Schmidt songs still charm. Factor in the endearing performances by Posey and Howe, and even if, like me, you´re more than an hour´s drive from Bennington, you´ll find this I Do! I Do! a little gem that´s well worth the trip.
While the show may be small in terms of cast, it has a big lineup of songs. All twenty are sweetly melodic without being saccharine, and the lyrics remain pointed and clever. You´re most likely to recognize "MyCup Runneth Over" which made it into the hit parade category when Andy Williams and several other singers made recordings. Trudi Posey´s two standout solos are the sassy "Flaming Agnes" and the more serious and moving "What Is a Woman?" and Mr. Howe too has the pipes to handle solos like "It´s a Well Known Fact" and "The Father of the Bride." They sing beautifully together and there´s a believable mix of love and tension between them which more than compensates for any lack in the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers department.
Being alone on stage puts a big burden on the two actors. This is somewhat evident at the beginning of the first act, but the musical excitement and the characters build well before the intermission rolls around.
The black scrims at either side of the stage for each actor´s entrances and exits serve the production well and Jenny Chappelle Fulton´s costumes are quite handsome -- especially the turn-of-the-century wedding outfits.
When I reviewed Civil Union which Eric Peterson wrote as well as directed, I was sufficiently taken with the three redneck characters, one of whom was portrayed by Mr. Howe, to suggest that they perhaps deserved a play of their own. Now that I´ve had a chance to hear Howe sing, maybe that play might be best as a musical.
Other Jones & Smith collaborations
The Show Goes On
Making Musicals, CurtainUp review of Jones' book on the subject he knows so well
Civil Union-- featuring "Michael" in a non-singing mode.