Playhouse Musical Celebrates Marriage


"I Do! I Do!" at Laguna Playhouse Photo by Michael Lamont

“I Do! I Do!” at Laguna Playhouse Photo by Michael Lamont

“It’s a strange new world you enter when you say I do; friends shower you with rice and shoes….” So begins the two-act musical “I Do I Do,” opening tomorrow at the Laguna Playhouse.

With marriage in all its evolving permutations fresh on everyone’s mind, the story has gained renewed resonance. It centers on Michael and Agnes, a couple experiencing 50 years of the joys and tribulations of growing old together.

“We had thought about the debates over gay marriage, but here it was not part of the conversation,” said Ann E. Wareham, the Playhouse’s artistic director. “But then, who knew that there’d be so much to rejoice now.”

Spanning the years from 1895 to 1945, some of its aspects might strike one as quaint, such as the jitters surrounding the wedding night and the idea that, with marriage, youth, especially for women, would be over. Then again with the arrival of babies growing into teens and adults, fury and pain surrounding infidelity and the vicissitude of aging, time might as well have stood still. “It’s a little bit of history but almost shocking how relevant it stayed; marriage is marriage,” said Wareham.

With lyrics and book by Tom Jones, not the hip-swaying crooner of “What’s New Pussycat” but rather the lyricist whose oeuvre includes “The Fantastics” (Try to Remember…), the musical stars David Gaines as Michael and Vicky Lewis as Agnes. Harvey Schmidt wrote the music, and New York City based Alan Souza directs.

Gaines distinguished himself in 2000 performances as the phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” and Lewis has gained acclaim in an array of international musical productions, film and television.

Having successfully worked with Gaines before, Wareham said that she had cast about for another project to do with him. “Finally, the planets aligned.”

Based on Jan de Hartog’s play “The Fourposter,” “I Do I Do” first opened in 1966, starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston, who won a 1967 Tony Award for his performance. He is particularly noted for his mastery of “patter song,” a way of singing that matches text, including difficult tongue-twisters, precisely to the beat of accompanying music. “Walking through the lobby and hearing David (Gaines) rehearse, I could hardly distinguish him from Robert Preston,” said Karen Wood, executive director of the Playhouse.

One of most sentimental songs from the musical is “My Cup Runneth Over (with love),” a line taken from the old testament (Psalm 23:5). “Nobody’s Perfect” and “The Honeymoon is Over” inject a bit of melancholy, while “Flaming Agnes” raucously reminds that life will go on even if marriage might not.

“This House,” provides the poignant finish, when Mike and Agnes, now seniors ready to downsize, sell their house to a couple of newlyweds who will, ostensibly, repeat the cycle on their own.

Although the story revolves around the couple’s four-poster bed, the stage set is more complicated than that, explained Wood. Middle-aged, the actors grow from kids to seniors before the audience’s eyes, with some of the make-up and costume changes being made in full view. “It’s a physically ambitious show with the actors singing and dancing the entire time,” she said.

“The musical is so dead-on the rhythms a marriage can take, with the wonderful things that can happen and those that don’t. I did “I do I do” myself and, after watching the journey of Agnes and Michael, I’d do it again,” concluded Wood.

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