I think I have heard it said that about 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce. Perhaps the sweet Tom Jones/ Harvey Schmidt musical, “I DO! I DO!” should be required viewing for all newlyweds who are serious about successfully traveling the ups and downs of that hopefully long road called marriage. The musical is based on the Jan de Hartog story, “The Fourposter,” and Rachel Mattox sweetly directs this current production at the Texas Repertory Theatre. The simple yet tasteful bedroom set (designer, Liz Freese) has an airy quality with gauzy drapery surrounding the stage, vanity tables and mirrored wardrobe closets at each side, and the afore-mentioned fourposter bed as the centerpiece right behind a wooden hope chest.
The music gets quickly underway (musical director, Luke Kirkwood offering gentle accompaniment on keyboard), and features book & lyrics by Mr. Jones with music by Mr. Schmidt. We hear the cute title tune, and then there is a lovely duet of “Together Forever” from the bride, Agnes (Shondra Marie), and her groom, Michael (Texas Rep Artistic Director, Steven Fenley).
The stars did not appear to be using microphones, which generally appeals to this critic, especially in an intimate theater such as that of Texas Rep. There would be occasional moments when the keyboard competed too loudly with the co-stars. Their voices were pleasant enough, but I confess I regret never having seen the Broadway original with Mary Martin and Robert Preston.
The show’s structure is interesting as it supplies a thoughtful long-range look at life while much of the action is implied rather than displayed. With only two characters in the play, we still know we are at a wedding as the show opens with the couple in formal clothes, including a lovely wedding gown for the bride (Costume designer, Elaine Steinbach). But regarding that structure of the play, I must point out my dissatisfaction when theaters produce a printed program that has no mention of scenes, song titles or scheduled intermissions. That is one mistake that Texas Rep can easily correct in the future.
The bridal bouquet is tossed into the audience, and then it is on to the innocent tensions of the wedding night as the couple sings a sweet, “Goodnight,” while in bed together for the first time. (Trust me—this is family entertainment all the way!) Then there is the groom’s sassy, freewheeling and very cute, “I Love My Wife,” as he takes his wife for a gliding and finger snapping whirl around the bedroom (Choreographer, Lauren Dolk). Even the bed joins in that dance, but you will have to see it to believe it.
The wedding night must have gone well as Agnes soon sings, “Something Has Happened,” upon discovering she is pregnant. The sweet lyrics include lines like, “All at once instead of one I’m two.” While Agnes frets about a future including “…years of crying and diapers and bottles,” Michael tries to comfort her by saying, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll find something to do.” Years of child rearing fly by with rooms full of toys that clutter the stage, and pesky teenagers we hear about, but never see. (Speaking of children, I was probably not alone in the opening night audience as I wondered why a wailing infant was among our number, and why several young children skipped up and down the aisle stairs during the performance. What were the parents thinking?)
As the story moves along there are mutually irritating habits and a husband’s wandering eye that threaten the marriage (“Nobody’s Perfect”). Michael does a bit of self-examination regarding his effort to keep focused on his work as a novelist when he sings, “Love Isn’t Everything.” As a writer myself, I enjoyed his reflection on the art:
“What’s so difficult about that? I just put words down on a piece of paper. The most difficult part is choosing which word.”
With top hat, cane, and a talent for soft-shoe, Fenley delivers a lusty and adorable indictment of women with, “A Well Known Fact.” Ms. Marie has the perfect retort with the red-hot mama dance routine of, “Flaming Agnes,” but they move toward reconciliation singing “The Honeymoon is Over” that closes Act One.
Act Two brings us to a New Year’s Eve some time later, and a darling duet that asks a question that haunts us all: “How Did the Time Slip By?” And speaking of duets, the show reached a blissful peak with their sweetly affectionate pairing for that melodic old Ed Ames hit, “My Cup Runneth Over With Love.” The two look forward to their empty nest days as Fenley delivers a rousing, “When the Kids Get Married.” And sure enough the children do get married, leaving their aging parents to delight in each other’s company with the lovely, “Someone Needs Me.” That could be a theme song for Texas Repertory Theatre. We all need great theatre, and we certainly have it here.
“I DO! I DO!” continues through April 10th at Texas Repertory Theatre, Northwoods Plaza, 14243 Stuebner Airline Rd., Houston TX 77069, with performances @ 7:30 pm on Thursdays, 8 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 pm matinees on Sundays. For more information call 281-583-7573 or log onto www.texreptheatre.org