REVIEW: “I Do! I Do! — (IVRT) Inland Valley Repertory Theatre
"A Perfect Marriage is just two imperfect people unwilling to give up on each other."
IVRT presents a sweet, charming, and honest musical look at the cycles of marriage with a spectacular, livestreamed performance of the mid-60’s musical play "I Do! I Do!” by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (“The Fantasticks” - one of the theatrical touchstones of their careers), and features 23 outstanding actors in a benefit show to help local theatres open their doors after the pandemic.
The show, written from the Golden Age of Broadway, was originally a star vehicle for Mary Martin and Robert Preston, running for 560 Broadway performances. Based originally on Jan de Hartog’s play, “The Fourposter,” the two person musical chronicles the 50 year marriage of Agnes and Michael Snow from 1898 until 1948.
Jan de Hartog was a Dutch playwright and novelist and in 1952, while visiting New York, he encountered a play he had written while hiding from the Nazis during World War II. That play was called “The Fourposter.” It went on to win de Hartog a Tony at the 6th Annual Tony Awards for Best Play. Columbia Pictures also made “The Fourposter” into a partially animated movie, starring Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer. The film was nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for its cinematography. Later, in 1966, it became the musical, I Do! I Do!”
The show at center is a carefully condensed time capsule of all the clichés that have ever been spawned by married people, with lyrics that are, for the most part, remarkably plain-spoken. We witness wedding night jitters, the challenge of raising a family, negotiations through mid-life crises, quarreling, separation, reconciliation, and finally the couple growing old together. Agnes is a pure Victorian wife who does the housework and raises their two children. Michael is the male chauvinist novelist with a large ego and a commanding nature. Love is their bond. Their large fourposter bed is the apt symbol for marriage.
“I Do! I Do!” is entertainment at its best — a touching story of two soul mates navigating the perils of life, updated and cleverly Americanized by Jones, and set to a tuneful, charming score by Schmidt. It can, however, be a tough show because both characters must have strong voices together with enough acting skills to be believable. Luckily, the assembled group are, in toto, top-notch in their field; all have amazing voices and stage chemistry and have created a master achievement, considering the heavy restrictions of the day.
The fun thing about this production is that IVRT's streaming production will alternate several actors playing Agnes and Michael at various ages and the show is set in contemporary times. The saccharine opening numbers and coy wedding-night scene is a study in comedic timing, and almost everyone in the virtual audience will chuckle or wince with recognition of a familiar anecdote of married life.
The cast includes Beatrice Casagran and Randy Lopez from Ophelia’s Jump Productions, Casey Long from Chance Theater, Todd and Jennifer Vigiletti from Center Stage Fontana, TJ and Jeanette Dawson from 3D Theatricals, and Candida Celaya, Ann Thomas, Jeffrey Ricca, Sandra Rice, Jessie Pyle, Frank Rodriquez, Patrick and Tiffany McMahon, Christopher Lindsay, Jamie Kaufman, Kim Eberhardt, Lisa Dyson, Bobby Collins, and Frank and Donna Marie Minano from IVRT. Frank Minano also directs the show. Ronda Rubio is Musical Director and Spencer Weitzel is Video Designer and Editor.
Honorary Producers include The Caplin Foundation, Dee Giannamore, Debby and Don Griffin, Bridget Healy, Gloria Slosberg, Ed Babcock and Ahlene Welsh.
Agnes and Michael sing of "a strange new world you enter when you say 'I do'," as they tie the knot. Their first, awkward night in bed ends in a duet of "Good Night" topped by a kiss that only comes after a clever, wifely ploy to test Michael's breath quality. The next morning, a now virile-feeling husband sings exuberantly, "I Love My Wife," and an equally challenging, barefoot Viennese waltz, “Someone Needs Me” while the two dance on top of the bed and around the room in their nightgowns, including doing a nice soft shoe routine without the shoes.
Another is a lively hoedown, “When the Kids Get Married,” all of these originally choreographed by the inimitable “one-man dynamo,” Kirby Ward. As in any marriage, the honeymoon bliss only lasts so long as babies arrive, disappointments mount, and occasional boredom of waking next to the same person year and after begins to set in.
Michael is charming to an appropriate murmur, but reveals the vulnerability behind his pompously domineering side. This adds weight to Jones' spot-on lyric for "The Father of the Bride" ("My daughter is marrying an idiot/ And I wish she was just my daughter again."). There are more delightful "charm" songs sung in duet by Michael and Agnes than you could likely find in any other musical. Most beautiful and heart tugging of all is their rendition of the enduring Jones-Schmidt classic, "My Cup Runneth Over (With Love)."
But in the valleys of marriage, the lists of things not working and irritating about the other person also take over, as sung by the couple in "Nobody's Perfect." Agnes must endure some jabs from her husband that today sound especially atrocious, such as in Michael's cocky "A Well-Known Fact" when he sings, "Men of 40 go to town while women go to pot." Agnes responds with, "If I am going to pot, this pot's going to be hot," as she slinks sexily and defiantly about in "Flaming Agnes." The music is a melange of allusions and styles, from Rodgers and Hammerstein to Lerner and Loewe to Frank Loesser and beyond, and in its unremitting sentimentality, seems to be the polar opposite of “The Fantasticks.”
We see the Snows age gracefully as they struggle for purpose after their children get married and as old age creeps upon them. Michael eventually admits to his infidelity, and, although Agnes is angered by his actions, she forgives him and the couple reconciles. They rediscover how much they really need each other. Then, after 50 years of marriage, the couple leaves their house to the next pair of newlyweds.
Filled with humor, a fine score and delightful characters, “I Do! I Do!” is an intimate, nostalgic low-key musical, skipping along like a hard-thrown, flat stone over the waters of life, touching here and there on the surface of Michael and Agnes’s marriage without the burden of sustained drama.
"I Do! I Do!" will support our local theatre community, including Ophelia's Jump Productions, 3D Theatricals, Center Stage Fontana and The Chance! Performance dates are May 1st and 8th at 7 p.m. and May 2nd at 2 p.m. Tickets are $27 and can be purchased by phone Monday through Thursday from 10am until 1pm at (909) 859-4878, or online 24/7 at www.ivrt.org. Highly Recommended!
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report