Tom Jones’ “I Do! I Do!,” a self-proclaimed “musical about marriage” is designed to be set in the fifty year span between 1895 and 1945. For its production, Theatre Raleigh’s Hot Summer Nights sets the show between 1952 and 2002. The update is a nice choice, since it keeps the show from feeling too-old-to-be-relevant for younger viewers without making it so modern that it loses some of its classic charm.
The play opens with Agnes (Annie Floor) and Michael (Erik Floor) on opposite ends of the stage, each preparing for their wedding. The couple shares its vows through the song “Together Forever,” which serves as a reminder of the meaning and true commitment behind those vows, something that will prove important throughout the play. After the wedding, the couple (literally) walks down the aisle, engaging audience members and effectively creating an excited, jubilant mood—perfectly duplicating the elation of the early stages of marriage. Things take a comical turn when the couple takes to the wedding bed—a beautiful set piece plopped right in the center of the simple but elegant bedroom where the show’s action takes place. Realistic hardwood floors and separate “spaces” (a dressing table for her, a desk for him) make the set very true to life and provide effective characterization throughout.
Audience members quickly grow attached to both characters, peeking into all of the major moments in their lives, from their charmingly awkward “first time” to the births of their two children and the major changes in their lives and their relationship. Annie Floor and Erik Floor, who are married in real life, bring a unique couple-chemistry to their roles, making for an even more enriching and believable experience.
It would probably cause some real-life marital tension to pick a favorite from the duo, but doing so would be next to impossible anyway. Both Floors prove gifted and likeable on stage. Erik Floor creates a Michael who is wonderfully charming and sweet—the not-perfect-but-still-trying husband every woman would be lucky to have. Even in the character’s most arrogant moments, Floor brings an easy likeability to the role, thanks in large part to his deadpan delivery of comedic lines and his oh-so-earnest face. No one else could have delivered a less offensive (to the ladies) version of “ A Well Known Fact,” a song that talks about how men age better than women, who as the song says, “go to pot.” Annie Floor, with her powerhouse voice and picture-perfect smirks and audience asides, certainly proves the song untrue, and she also makes Agnes a character to root for.
While the play, at first, seems to be overarchingly pleasant—almost bordering on saccharine even—real life and real problems quickly set in, just as they do in marriage, and make the story more true-to-life. Crystal-clear sound quality, excellent decade-specific costumes, and some of the best choreography and general onstage movement add up to a production that is fun, sweet, and wonderfully honest.
At its heart, the story is one that everyone knows, that everyone lives. It is about the honing process of marriage, how it has the ability to bring individual strengths and weaknesses to the forefront and how it can change people if they let it. Presenting a cyclical view of life and a very identifiable couple, this is a bittersweet musical, one that is perfectly representative of the bitter and the sweet in everyone’s lives.
Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh presents I DO! I DO! at 8 p.m. June 5-7, 2 and 8 p.m. June 8, 3 p.m. June 9 in in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25 ($22 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111 or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/27655.
GROUP RATES: 919-480-5166.
The Fourposter (1951 play): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourposter (Wikipedia).
Jan de Hartog (playwright): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_de_Hartog (Wikipedia).
I Do! I Do! (1966 musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000044 (Music Theatre International), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Do!_I_Do! (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=4593 (Internet Broadway Database).
Harvey Schmidt (music): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvey_Schmidt (Wikipedia).
Tom Jones (lyrics and book): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Jones_%28writer%29 (Wikipedia).