Friday, September 15, 2017

Wetumpka Depot: "I Do! I Do!"

Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the team behind the 42-year-long run of The Fantasticks (1960-2002) in New York, had another success in 1966 with a charming musical called I Do! I Do! which is currently on the boards at the Wetumpka Depot Theatre.

Played on a wide set dominated by a large four poster bed, and with some 19 songs in its two acts, I Do! I Do! spins the story of Michael and Agnes from their wedding day and the gift of a pillow embroidered with "God is Love", through the next fifty years; while there are few surprises and a lot of familiar territory in this gentle tale -- awkward first moments, the births of children and the responsibilities that come with them, the "traditional" roles of husbands and wives, events that test a marriage, grandparenthood, and retirement -- director Kristy Meanor and musical director Marilyn Swears have their actors create characters and weave a story as a testament to the bond between people who truly love each other.

Usually played by two actors, Ms. Meanor has chosen to split the roles for the two acts: Morgan Baker and Rebecca Ivey play Michael and Agnes in Act I during the first years of their marriage, while Jeff Langham and Kim Mason take over the roles in Act II from their middle-age to old-age. -- In both Acts, audiences are treated to strong singing and effective aging through modifications of wigs/costumes [well done, Matthew Oliver] and makeup, most of which is done off-stage. Ms. Ivey is particularly impressive in her Act I transformations; and both Mr. Langham's and Ms. Mason's transitions to old age are done in full view allowing us to see them age before our eyes.

Each of the actors is given moments to demonstrate their singing chops. Mr. Baker's rendition of "I Love My Wife" is particularly effective, and Ms. Ivey takes over the stage with "Flaming Agnes" in which she claims her independence; together, their versions of "Love Isn't Everything" and "A Well Known Fact" are delightful.

Probably the best known song from I Do! I Do! is Act II's  "My Cup Runneth Over", and is given a fine interpretation here. Mr. Langham and Ms. Mason relish their independence from their children in the humorous "When the Kids Get Married". His "The Father of the Bride" tells of every father's reticence in letting go of his daughter and suggests the empty-nest syndrome that everyone fears, and her "What is a Woman" questions her worth outside marriage. But all is forgiven with the exchange of gifts and the realization that "Someone Needs Me".

As they prepare to leave the house they lived in for the past fifty years, they leave the "God is Love" pillow and a bottle of champagne for the new young couple moving in, and audiences are left feeling good to have been in their presence.