RIDGEFIELD — Back in the 1960s, Robert Preston and Mary Martin starred in a musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, directed by Gower Champion. That show, I Do! I Do!, ran for two years and garnered a host of Tony nominations, along with the 1967 award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for Preston. Based on a comedy by Jan De Hartog called The Fourposter (because the entire play takes place in a bedroom dominated by a large bed), it follows the life of a marriage.
Because of the simple set and the two person cast, it is the kind of show often put on by regional and amateur theaters as a cost saver to offset the expenses of more lavish productions in their schedule. Thus it has been chosen as this year’s light summer musical for Ridgefield Theater Barn, and judging by the crowd on a recent Saturday night, a lot of people are really enjoying the production.
We first meet Michael and Agnes on their wedding day, passionately declaring their vows (hence the title of the musical) and then watch as they change into their night clothes and begin (oh so discreetly) the honeymoon.
Over the next fifty years, the bedroom is the setting for a variety of conversations, quarrels, reconciliations and reflections, as Agnes gets pregnant, Michael achieves success as a novelist, they endure midlife crises, the kids get married, and eventually — with copious use of powder and wigs, they look even older than much of the audience, all to the tune of some 18 musical numbers.
The titles of the songs express exactly what the show is about — “I Love My Wife,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” “The Honeymoon is Over,” “Where Are the Snows (of Yesteryear),” “When the Kids Get Married,” “Father of the Bride,” and so on — a celebration of marriage, seen from the long view.
Stephanie Sands is particularly good as Agnes, with a lovely singing voice and a sprightly stage presence. Philip Hahn captures Michael’s slightly dim-witted arrogance, continually demanding to know where his wife has put his shoes, his jacket, his… whatever, until he eventually finds them, right where they were supposed to be. His sense of his own importance as a writer can be a bit insufferable until Agnes takes the wind out of his sails, and he remembers how much he values her.
The original show was set in the years from 1895 to 1945. Ridgefield director Richard Grasso has chosen to update it so that it begins in the 1960s and extends to the present. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was, because it makes some of the details seem dated —like Agnes’ worries that the gas lamps might be leaking, and Michael’s frequent mention of the servants, who apparently live in.
Myles Gansfried did one of his usual beautifully designed sets, and costumers Lori Jacques and Susan Salzberg Rubin probably had a lot of fun coming up with the assortment of pajamas, robes, and nightgowns used to indicate each new point in time. Michael seemed to spend the entire play in the process of either putting clothes on, or taking them off.
It all makes for a pleasant, nostalgic sort of evening.
(Performances continue Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sunday afternoons, until June 29.
The theater barn is at 31 Halpin Lane in Ridgefield. Call 203-431-9850 or visit RidgefieldTheaterBarn.org for tickets and additional information.)