Virginia Rep’s ‘I Do! I Do!’ at Hanover Tavern: Our cups runneth over
Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones are the composer and lyricist best known for the musical “The Fantasticks,” which ran off-Broadway from 1960 – 2002 for a total of 17,162 performances. The duo also had Broadway hits with the musicals “110 In the Shade” and “I Do! I Do!”
“I Do! I Do!” is adapted from Dutch playwright Jan de Hartog’s original play “The Fourposter”, chronicling a typical marriage from newlyweds to retirement. The play and the musical focus on the inequalities and adjustments men and women must make for each other in marriage. The “fourposter” is of course, their marital bed.
The subject matter may be seen as old fashioned and tame in this day of Hamiltonian rap and “Ring of Keys” discoveries of youth, but dated it is not. Marriage, for better or worse, is still the same (if more encompassing) and one of the few universal societal truths.
The weakness of presenting the history of so encompassing an institution as marriage is that condensing a lifetime of experiences to the greatest hits (wedding, children, empty nest, and golden years) lends itself to being somewhat cliché. That criticism of this musical’s book is well taken but I don’t care. I loved it. The honest truth is that anyone who has been married or lived with someone for any length of time will see themselves in this play if it’s presented half decently.
The audiences at Hanover Tavern have the privilege of seeing this show done as well as you could ask. Bruce Miller has kept it simple and clean. His best decision was casting Larry Cook and his wife Lauren Leinhaas-Cook in the leads. He might have found better singers, he might have found better dancers, but he would not have found the magic that happens when two relatively stable married people play two relatively stable married people. Their embraces last a little longer because there is no awkwardness, their gaze into each other’s eyes are filled with decades of meaning, their jealous covering for each other’s faults and their strenuous desire to make each other look good are done lovingly and selflessly. It’s worth the price of admission.
Larry Cook is a terrific showman. He is nimble and charismatic, has a laser sense for the timing of a joke and is a wonderful song and dance man. Lauren Leinhaas-Cook is endearing and funny and sweet and feminine and sings like a nightingale. Less of a showperson here and more of a Mother Earth to Mr. Cook’s man-boy. Mrs. Cook is Mr. Cook’s perfect foil because, well, she has practice at it.
The score of “I Do! I Do!” is somewhat curious. The one hit song, popularized in the late 60’s is “My Cup Runneth Over (With Love”), which when performed by the Cooks brings a lump to the throat. The rest of the songs are un-gimmicky and plainspoken but not very memorable or tuneful. They are however crafted to tell this story and while neither remarkable nor inventive, they are extremely pleasant and well performed, the performances being greatly aided by Jan Guarino’s very practical choreography beautifully suited to two adorably mature non-dancers.
The staging at times becomes fussy with things like the placement and removal of the children’s toys and running behind flats to change clothing, but that faded away from memory with the excellent choice of having the actors’ age onstage into their seniority.
Terrie Powers’ set was fairly bland which surprised me. The fourposter bed was beautiful but the rest of the set pieces and wall coverings were tasteful but drab and undistinguished. The set was a little cramped on the stage right side which served as a major travel lane and much too narrow to avoid set bumping as things were taken on and off.
Sarah Grady’s costuming was delicious – from the silk pajamas to the beautiful gowns and marvelous fur stole Ms. Leinhass-Cook sported, to Mr. Cook’s nightgown and sleeping cap right out of Currier and Ives.
B.J. Wilkinson did his usual excellent lighting design. Warm and cozy and inviting, shifting colors and hues as the decades of the marriage passed by.
I am used to musical comedy nay-sayers in the theater community. Too much charm, slight scripts, unrealistic transitions, lightweight acting assignments. Perhaps. What I do know is that the musical theater is a purely American expression right there with jazz. I know it is the most popular and attended form of theater we have in America, and, like the best drama, it is hard to do. You try singing and dancing in between monologues and maintain a credible character. I love Shakespeare and I love musical theater for the same reasons. They both require expert skill sets. Neither is easy. Both feed the soul.
Go to Hanover Tavern with your loved one and feed your souls. You’ll be glad you said I Do! I Do!
“It’s an opportune time to have these discussions about reflecting on where we come from.”September 15, 2016
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