REVIEW: I Do! I Do! (Light Opera Works)

 

Dated musical extols institution on life-support

 

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 003

   
Light Opera Works presents
   
I Do!  I Do!
   
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller
Music direction by Roger L. Bingaman and Linda Slein
McGaw Children’s Center Auditorium, Evanston (map)
Through November 14  | 
tickets: $27-$42*  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

It’s not only its historic setting that makes I Do! I Do! seem dated.

Marriage — the till-death-do-us-part style — is more and more passé. Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that the number of young adults who’ve never married rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 46 percent in 2009. Among all Americans ages 18 and older, the proportion of those married dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2009 — the lowest percentage ever recorded.

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 006 Of those couples who do marry, at least half eventually divorce. Adultery is rife — the news is full of stories about philandering celebrities and politicians — and some studies estimate that as many as 45 to 55 percent of married people cheat on their spouses.

In times like these, how relevant can a sentimental musical about a 50-year-long marriage be?

Based on Jan de Hartog’s 1951 Broadway hit The Fourposter, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’ tender, two-piano, two-character musical, currently in revival by Evanston’s Light Opera Works, follows Michael and Agnes from their wedding at the turn of the 20th century through their five decades of married life. The action mainly revolves around their four-posted marriage bed, although its presence is more symbolic than titillating. We watch them through wedding-night nerves, the birth and rearing of children, squabbles and reconciliations, his brief extramarital affair, her mid-life crisis and their ultimate retirement, a story told mainly in a series of schmaltzy duets punctuated by occasional solos, recitatives and a judicious amount of dialogue.

In 1966, when I Do! I Do! premiered on Broadway, the divorce rate was just 27.4 percent, and roughly 80 percent of U.S. adults were married. You have to wonder what today’s large number of never marrieds, divorced and gays and lesbians are going to get out of this paean to old-fashioned, traditional marriage.

Michael and Agnes no longer represent the universal, generic twosome they once did, even among the married. Few today still follow the male wage earner-female homemaker model at the root of some of this couple’s tiffs. Married life has become much more complex.

 

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 005

Yet although dated in its subject matter, I Do! I Do! remains fresh in its intimate format — a two-person musical was ahead of its time in the 1960s. Schmidt’s sweet and bouncy but repetitive melodies and Jones’ simplistic sentiments — "Marriage is a very good thing, though it’s far from easy" — sometimes verge on cloying, but several of the songs have appeal, notably "I Love My Wife," Michael’s acknowledgement of how unfashionable it is, the upbeat "Love Isn’t Everything" and the comic "Nobody’s Perfect" in Act I and the poignant lament about aging, "Where are the Snows?" and the love song, "My Cup Runneth Over" in Act II. In Light Opera Works’ production, music directors Roger L. Bingaman and Linda Slein double on the dual pianos, occasionally a little muddy but capably over all.

Veteran actors Catherine Lord and Larry Adams make this production worthwhile. Lord’s beautifully timed, wonderfully funny and highly expressive performance as the often-dissatisfied Agnes gives the show some real spice. She acts with every part of her body. Adams’ rich baritone elevates the score.

If you’re looking forward to your wedding, an optimistic young married or about to celebrate your umpty-umpth wedding anniversary, this bittersweet and nostalgic musical may be just the excuse that you’re looking for to have an evening out holding hands with your honey. For many, though, I Do! I Do! describes a life so alien it might as well be science fiction.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

Catherine Lord and Larry Adams - Light Opera Works - I Do I Do 004

*age 21and younger are half price.

   
   

Production Personnel

Cast: Catherine Lord (Agnes) and Larry Adams (Michael)

Production Team: Adam L. Veness (Scenic Design), Darcy Hofer (Costume Design), Charles Jolls (Lighting Design), Miles Polaski (Sound Design), Sienna Macedon (Hair and Make-Up Design), Mealah Heidenreich and Deborah Lindell (Properties Design), Rachel Levine (Stage Manager), and Paige Keedy (Production Manager).

Creative Team Bios

Rudy Hogenmiller (Director/Choreographer) is artistic director of Light Opera Works. He has directed and choreographed many productions for the company including MY FAIR LADY, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, KISS ME, KATE, SOUTH PACIFIC, THE MIKADO and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. He has been recognized with six Joseph Jefferson Awards and 17 nominations for best direction and choreography inChicago. Hogenmiller has been a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers for more than 25 years.

Roger L. Bingaman (Co-Music Director) made his first appearance on the Light Opera Works podium in 1997, conductingTHE MERRY WIDOW. In December, 2005 he was named the company’s music director. He has conducted many Light Opera Works productions, including CAROUSEL, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, MY FAIR LADY, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, IOLANTHE and GIGI. Bingaman has been director of the apprentice program and chorus master for the Sarasota Opera since 1998.

Linda Slein (Co-Music Director) has been a musical director in the Chicago area for more than 20 years. Recent credits include FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: SVU at the Royal George Theater and MID-LIFE: THE CRISIS MUSICAL at Pheasant Run for Noble Fool Theatricals and Little Theater on the Square. Other credits include GRAND HOTEL at Drury Lane Water Tower Place, A CHORUS LINE at Theater at the Center, and A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM at Noble Fool Theatricals. For the past three years, Linda has been the musical director for Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Cast Bios

Catherine Lord (Agnes) made her Light Opera Works debut last season as Désirée in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Ms. Lord has performed extensively in the Chicago area for nearly 25 years. Some of her favorite roles and shows include MY FAIR LADY, HAIRSPRAY, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, THE BOWERY BOYS, LES MISERABLES, THE PRODUCERS, INTO THE WOODS, OLIVER!, STATE FAIR, SUNSET BOULEVARD, Miss Flannery in THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, and Betty Blake in THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES, all at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire;  Rafaella Ottiano in GRAND HOTEL at Drury Lane Water Tower; Emma Goldman in RAGTIME, Marian Paroo in THE MUSIC MAN, Lilli/Kate in KISS ME, KATE, and Grace Farrell in ANNIE at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace; Carlotta in PHANTOM (After Dark Award) at Drury Lane Evergreen Park.   

Larry Adams (Michael) has appeared in Light Opera Works productions of SOUTH PACIFIC, 110 IN THE SHADE, THE MERRY WIDOW, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, KISS ME, KATE, THE MUSIC MAN and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Larry has performed with various companies in the Chicago area including; Theatre at the Center, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook. He has toured nationally with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and was a part of the Broadway and San Francisco companies. Mr. Adams has performed a wide range of musical styles from opera to minimalism to cabaret, appearing at such venues as Lincoln Center and La Mama in New York City to opera companies and theatres around the country. In the August 2010 Chicago Magazine’s BEST OF CHICAGO feature, he was singled out as Chicago theater’s Best Singer.

2 Responses

  1. My husband and I are going to “I Do! I Do! tonight, and I’m looking forward to “holding hands with my honey.”
    I’m sorry you’re so cynical about marriage. In a few weeks we’ll be celebrating our 53rd anniversary, and we are more in love now than ever. Our marriage gets better and better as the years go by. I credit our happiness to the fact that when we married, there were more than two in the relationship. Our marriage has always been a threesome: God, a husband, and a wife. There is no better recipe for a happy marriage — and a happy life!

    • Hey Eileen. Wow, 53 years. My parents are celebrating their 50th next year, and they’re relationship is still going strong. hope you have a great time at the show!

      best,

      Scotty Zacher

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