AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Book and Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Directed by Frank Anzalone
Independence Studio at Walnut Street Theatre
9th & Walnut Streets, Philadelphia, PA 19107-5195
Playing through June 24, 2001
Website: Box Office: (215) 574-3550

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

At the Independence Studio on the 3rd Floor of Walnut Street Theatre, running until June 24th is the Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical, "I Do! I Do!". Based on "The Fourposter" by Jan De Hartog, this two character musical was originally produced on Broadway in 1966 by David Merrick. Directed by Gower Champion, it starred Mary Martin and Robert Preston. It traces fifty years of marriage from 1895 to 1945. A popular show which has played many venues and had many tours, most recently it was revived and revised by the authors and played Off-Broadway at the Lamb's Club Theatre with Karen Ziemba and David Garrison.

The book and lyrics to this little gem of a show are decidedly clever and to the point, and the music is sweetly melodic. The one well-known number from the score is, of course, "My Cup Runneth Over", which became a hit in the late sixties and seventies when it was covered by pop recording artists such as Andy Williams, Jack Jones and the like.

Though this small show is playing in a small theater, the space is used to maximum advantage. The bed is, of course, the main focal point and director Frank Anzalone has cleverly had his designer mount it on wheels so that it can be turned around to great effect. The set by Robert L. Kramer is simple and elegantly sparse. And the costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case which were used for the 1980's Lucie Arnaz and Lawrence Luckinbill tour are quite lovely.

Denise Whelan, possessed of a lovely, clear voice especially when she sings in her upper register, is a sassy Agnes. Her star turn, of course, is "Flaming Agnes" but she also sings a very moving version of "What is a Woman?" Dan Schiff, as Michael, strikes just the right note as the self-possessed sentimental novelist who takes himself just a bit too seriously. The two roles in this piece are undoubtedly a tour de force for any actor as we see both characters age fifty years.

Though the actors are not amplified their voices carry quite well. However, the piano, which is off in a far corner of the audience, seems to have a muffled quality and doesn't support the actors as much as it might.

My one disappointment is the opening number which seems too slow and drawn out and which holds no musical excitement. Granted it utilizes only two people, but still it's an opening number and there should be the initial thrill of hearing two voices and a piano embarking on a new musical journey. The show didn't really start rolling for me until the second number. However, once it got going it was quite a delightful romp, with some very touching moments thrown in besides.

The appeal of this show is that we see two characters from their wedding night on until they grow old together. There are times when they are in love and times when they are out of love -- when they laugh together and cry separately. In short, it touches upon the joys, sorrows, annoyances and lighthearted moments of monogamy. So, if marriage is "your bag, baby" you will certainly enjoy this sweet little production.

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