Wedded Bliss

I Do! I Do! is a musical with a beard a mile long, which is almost certainly why it's part of Theater Works' summer stock season. This 20-year-old troupe caters mostly to the blue-hairs of Sun City, where "risky" means any show in which someone turns up in a peignoir.

Despite the fact that it plays pretty much constantly, I've managed to avoid all productions of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt's boldly maudlin homage to wedlock — first staged in 1966 and long since a community-theater staple — which may well be why I enjoyed this version so. It didn't hurt that the director kept things moving nicely and that the cast sang so beguilingly.

Based on Jan de Hartog's 1951 play The Fourposter, this tuner presents a song cycle that covers a 50-year period in the lives of Michael (Paul Yoder) and Agnes (Kimberlee Hart), commencing on their wedding night and following them through first fights, the birth of their children, and their own romantic discord. In this production, both performers are charming enough to keep this trifle afloat, and talented enough to sell even the most slender lyric (of which there are many) with voices so powerful and warm they didn't need the help of body mics, which they wore all the same.

The pair perform best when they're singing; they present a sweetly understated rendition of the show's big hit, "My Cup Runneth Over," and their comic squabbles throughout the clever "Nobody's Perfect," in which they grump about a spouse's imperfections, were spot-on. It's obvious that Yoder is trained in opera; his powerful singing voice was bigger than most of these simple melodies (played expertly offstage by pianist Flora Mogerman) required. Hart is a deft comedienne who's obviously played her share of physical comedy; she commands the stage even when she's standing by, frowning over some oversight from her stage husband.

Good thing these two are so pleasant to see and hear, because both actors are a bit long in the tooth to be playing newlyweds who age 50 years, and there's precious little real chemistry between them. Their talents prevail, and the pair overcomes unattractive costuming (Hart's frumpy frocks are especially unbecoming, and something should be done with her hair, which hangs wetly and limply throughout) and garish, silent-film-star makeup to present a pleasant, occasionally very funny program.

There were unintentional opening-night titters to enjoy as well. At one point, Yoder realized he'd left part of his costume offstage, and rushed into the wings hissing, "Shoes! Shoes!" to his dresser, an angry jeer heard loud and clear because his mic was, of course, still on.

Less amusing was the lingering smell of a public restroom. The last time I reviewed a show at Theater Works, I noted that the place smelled like pee, a situation that's still unresolved. Perhaps a toilet exploded? And someone needs to do something about the theater's sightlines, because I was as able to watch the black-clad teenaged stagehands running around backstage as I was the show before me. Still, what was taking place onstage was more than entertaining enough to hold my attention, and so I at last saw — and enjoyed — this venerable comic musical.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela