By Lisa Steiner
Upon telling a fellow thespian that I was headed to The Lofte to see their opening night of I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!, she said, “I did this in high school and it’s just called, ‘I Do! I Do!’ Why are there four ‘I do’s’?” Turns out that the original version had two roles, featuring husband and wife Agnes and Michael, spanning fifty years of their marriage. This new adaptation features the same husband and wife and the same fifty years, but there are eight actors that play the couple at different stages of their lives.
The musical was originally brought to Broadway in 1966. While some moments didn’t age very well, there was quite a lot that was still relatable. Wedding night jitters, raising children, family celebrations, nagging, wandering feelings, and other similar marital themes were all there. There’s even a delightful running gag involving a pillow embroidered with “God Is Love.” It was so prominent that the pillow may deserve a credit in the program. Also endearing were other through-concepts, such as Michael’s sleeping habits and Agnes’s ability to remember where all of Michael’s things are (much to his chagrin).
One thing that did confuse me some was the specific content being set in the early 1900’s (between 1895 and 1945). Some of the phrases and concepts seemed a bit modern for those decades. There were some missed opportunities for stronger period costumes, hair, makeup, and set pieces, especially since each era had different actors. A boost in this area may have made the time periods more concrete. This musical is based off of the play The Fourposter, and features a four-poster bed in the couple’s bedroom for the entirety of the show. Changes in set dressings for each scene would have helped give some visual interest throughout the play, along with defining the current age.
The music, composed by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (the musical duo of The Fantasticks), was your average 1960’s musical theater style: pretty, but with some funky parts (think How to Succeed In Business…). Again, it didn’t match any of the eras that well, but it was nice to hear something different than your regular Broadway tunes. The actors were accompanied by piano only. This worked well while the actors were singing, although did leave a little to be desired during the dance breaks at times. Another musician, such as a drummer, guitarist, or someone on synth, would have livened them up just enough. The choreography during the dance breaks was simple, but effective for a more subdued musical such as this. I could tell the actors were having a lot of fun with it.
Our four couples, from youngest to oldest, were played by Ross Mumford and Lilly Frields as Couple #1, Chris Berger and Anna Rebecca Felber as Couple #2, James Nygren and Betty Colbert as Couple #3, and Gary Williams and Barb Nowick as Couple #4. All are seasoned performers, including newcomer “Born-in-the-Barn player,” Felber.
Mumford and Frields dazzled with some fancy footwork, described as a “soft shoe without shoes.” Frields’ prosthetic pregnancy bump was a bit pronounced; I thought she might be having twins or triplets! Frields’ fumbling with laundry and Mumford’s excitement after the wedding night gave the audience some chuckles. Their innocence and newness with what marriage is and the experiences that come along with it was pleasant to watch.
Berger and Felber gave me reason to ponder if I even want to be married with their bickering and disdain for one another. Berger was a perfect jackass, which fueled Felber’s fiery performance of “Flaming Agnes,” a true showstopper. Felber gave a great depth of realness to Agnes, and also highlighted her inner strength and friskiness. In Berger’s portrayal, I could imagine a lot of similarities to what the original Michael, played by Robert Preston (of Music Man fame), may have been like.
Nygren and Colbert’s chemistry in figuring out what to do with their teenage children was entertaining, and also included some cute choreography; some of it was reminiscent of the dances from their newlywed days. Colbert’s rendition of “What Is A Woman” was quite lovely, showcasing her resonant lower range. Colbert carried the inner strength that Felber established, which was appreciated.
Williams and Nowick wrapped up the tale with sweet reflections of their life together, and the newlyweds who are moving into their home as they move out. One of my favorite moments of theirs was during their song, with the lyrics, “Marriage is a very good thing, though it’s far from easy. Still, it’s filled this house with life and love.”
While there were plenty of wonderful passages, I will say there were some missteps in the script. A few times, conflict would be introduced and we’d learn something concerning about a character. One of these moments was during “What Is A Woman” and the following scene when Agnes drops a bomb on Michael. And then only moments later, the issue would be resolved without much effort. I felt bad for the actors in these moments, because it seemed like all the work they did to build up to the climax was lost and didn’t really matter. That said, the actors all did a great job with the material and really brought these two people to life in a fascinating way. They were all quite charming and kept me wondering what was going to happen next.
If you go: I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do! continues its run at Lofte Community Theater in Manley, NE, with performances on July 18, 22-25, 29-31, and August 1. Start times are 7:00 PM on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 2:00 PM on Sunday. Tickets are $24 and can be purchased by calling 402-234-2553 or going to https://www.lofte.org/.
~*~SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT! ~*~
During the entire run of the show, The Lofte will be be serving an enhanced concession menu featuring Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork and Bar-B-Que Burnt Ends. Chips and Pork and Beans will also be available. Serving will start 1 hour before curtain (6:00 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 1:00 on Sunday). There will also be outdoor tables available to enjoy your dinner before the show!
Lisa Steiner is a long-time lover of theater and the arts, who enjoys performing, music directing, and filling the role of patron. She has a Bachelor of Music degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where she also was a staff writer, layout designer, and production editor for The Reveille newspaper. During the day, Lisa is a case manager for the Department of Health and Human Services. Through this great position, she is able to combine her strengths of working with people and completing paperwork. Lisa also has two cats, Sienna and Lucy.
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