I Do! I Do! plays this weekend at the Shawnee Theatre in Bloomfield. It’s is a two character musical that follows Agnes and Michael from their 1895 wedding night in a four poster bed through their farewell to it in 1945. We see the couple through youth, child birth, middle and old age. There are joys, disappointments and some pretty violent ups and downs.
The book and lyrics for I Do! I Do! are by Tom Jones with music by Harvey Schmidt. They’re the same team that gave us The Fantasticks. The show opened on Broadway in the winter of 1966. Robert Preston and Mary Martin were the couple in the original production. Both were nominated for Emmy’s with Preston winning.
In the late sixties Broadway and the country were very much in transition. The rock musical Hair opened off Broadway less than a year after I Do! I Do! and the two shows played opposite one another at Broadway theatres in the spring of 1968.
In Shawnee’s cast Patterson Friese takes on the Preston role of Michael with Andrea Swift-Hanlon playing Martin’s Agnes. Swift-Hanlon is also the director and choreographer. Both are winning actors, very good singers and quite capable of surprisingly inventive and graceful dancing. Cristina Dinella is the music director and on-stage pianist. Set design is by David Wade. Costumes are by Anneliese Garner.
I Do! I Do!’s songs at Shawnee chart the years of Agnes and Michael’s marriage. The first act begins with their wedding as the two actually came off stage to greet, shake hands and thank the audience for coming. The traditional bouquet was tossed. The initial ignorant shyness of the bride and the not very thoughtful adoration of the groom both need a dose of life. Pregnancy, the turmoil of birth and touches of young parenthood are dramatized.
Michael gives up dreams of being a serious author for monetary success as a writer of romances while Agnes begins to feel more and more estranged. The changes are charted in songs that move from “My Cup Runneth Over,” through “Love Isn’t Everything,” and “Nobody’s Perfect.” Michael’s successes are making him pompous. There’ a bit of an affair and in his “It’s a Well Known Fact,” Friese’s egotistical Michael is very much into the notion that while a man improves with age, a woman simply goes to pot. As you might guess, Swift-Hanlon’s Agnes emphatically disagrees and the act ends with the duet, “The Honeymoon’s Over.”
Act two of I Do! I Do! begins with Michael and then Agnes lamenting lost youth in “Where are the Snows.” Middle age, the thoughts of release in “When the Kids Get Married’ are followed by Michael’s reservations as “The Father of the Bride” and his rueful discovery that their son now fits neatly into the tuxedo that he wore at his own wedding. Agnes and Michael’s lives as empty nesters settles in with some regrets, but also with some richly comic moments and a bit more understanding and grace.
I Do! I Do! At Bloomfield’s Shawnee theatre plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and in a Sunday Matinee. You can share this review and a preseason interview with Shawnee’s director Bri Lindsey at WFIU dot ORG/Arts Next week at Shawnee a smart teen ager who hates to read invents a machine that reads for him. Unfortunately it also releases those scary fairy tale witches in Beanie and the Bamboozling Machine.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker.