Matrimonial musical I Do! I Do! stands test of time

REVIEW

I Do! I Do!

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Where: David Foster Foundation Theatre, Oak Bay Beach Hotel, 1175 Beach Dr.

When: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m., until March 7

Cocktail reception: 6 p.m. Dinner: 6:45 p.m.

Tickets: $89 dinner and show

Reservations, information: 250-598-4556

 

It was inevitable that, like any husband and wife, I Do! I Do!, the matrimonial musical from 1966, would eventually show its age.

While the appeal of the beloved two-hander chronicling five decades of marriage has faded over time with changing social mores, universal truths about romance and commitment remain since it first had theatregoers walking down the aisle humming tunes sung by Mary Martin and Robert Preston on Broadway.

It is those at-times hilariously recognizable truths, and the fine singing voices of Sue Doman and Stan Davis as the aging newlyweds, that make this compact chestnut an entertaining confection in spite of itself. And what’s not to love, despite some lyrics that now seem cringeworthy, about the score by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt of The Fantasticks fame?

Chuckles of recognition could be heard on the opening night as this featherweight romp, a good fit for the David Foster Foundation Theatre’s small stage, journeyed from early marital bliss to empty-nest syndrome.

Adapted from Jan de Hartog’s 1952 play The Fourposter, I Do! I Do! is a series of scenes from the marriage of Michael and Agnes, played out in a bedroom dominated by the matrimonial bed. The show follows the couple from their wedding night in 1895, with the nervous groom wearing his nightcap to bed and the demure bride wearing her veil, to their golden years in 1945.

These vignettes are punctuated by musical numbers that are, by turns, bittersweet, as when Doman and Davis deliver a lovely rendition of the classic romantic ballad My Cup Runneth Over, and amusing, as when Davis, musically exclaiming “my daughter is marrying an idiot!” reveals his comic flair during The Father of the Bride. Doman does particularly well on the plaintive ballad What Is a Woman, and in Nobody’s Perfect the snicker-inducing comic duet in which the spouses unleash their mutual frustration while listing each other’s more irksome traits.

A vamping Doman’s show-stopper opening night was Flaming Agnes, the fantasy number that builds to a comic crescendo as she expresses her imagined liberation by donning an outrageous red ladybug-patterned “$85 hat” and matching dress. The spectacle of a repressed middle-aged wife’s sudden flight from subservience as she morphs into the force of nature of the song’s title was as funny and applause-worthy as it sounds.

Davis amusingly expresses the pomposity of his initially likable but increasingly chauvinistic character, the self-absorbed novelist whose enduring love for his wife eventually brings him back down to earth.

Both of the show’s stars are so confident musically you never get that sinking feeling they won’t be able to hit the high notes, or that they might flub lyrics that can be challenging.

By the time their characters finish dramatizing decades of ups and downs that make the couple realize that mutual respect and perseverance are as essential to a marriage as love, darned if you won’t feel a bit misty-eyed.

Peter Rothauser’s musical accompaniment on piano and drums is exemplary, providing the signature Jones-Schmidt sound that is so essential to the show’s overall tone.

A portion of every ticket sold for I Do! I Do! goes to the David Foster Foundation to assist families with children who need organ transplants.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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