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SAN DIEGO
Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

I Do! I Do!

I Do! I Do!
Patrick Page and Paige Davis
The Old Globe's new $22 million Conrad Prebys Theatre Center was finished "on time and on budget," according to Executive Producer Louis G. Spisto. But the Globe had built some delays into the schedule and was faced with having a new facility open and ready to go well before its inaugural production of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers was due to open in late January.

Enter Old Globe Associate Artist Patrick Page, along with his wife, actress Paige Davis. The pair had previously indicated an interest in reviving the Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical I Do! I Do! and were available to do so on short notice. So, the Globe has put up a limited run (December 11-20) of the show starring Mr. Page and Ms. Davis. The production succeeds not only in showcasing the new Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the complex but also in showcasing the charms of the performers.

Originally created as a vehicle for Mary Martin and Robert Preston, I Do! I Do! was probably dated when it opened in December of 1966. Telling the story of the 50 year marriage of Michael and Agnes, the plot harkens to a time when people really did marry "'til death do us part" and tried as best they could to make it work when the going got tough. The going never gets really tough, though, and most issues are resolved in song. And there are some great ones herein: "My Cup Runneth Over" is the best known (it was a hit on both the pop and adult contemporary charts), but Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme scored with "The Honeymoon is Over," and "What Is a Woman?" also became a frequently performed standard.

Director Richard Jay-Alexander has wisely chosen to keep the show set in the period spanning the turn of the 20th century. His fluid and clever staging, along with James Kinney's simple but elegant choreography, does much to enhance the quality of the theatrical experience. Charlotte Deveaux responded with some stylish period costumes. Both Ralph Funicello's scenic design and Chris Rynne's lighting design are intended to show off the capabilities of the new house, and they do so admirably. Paul Peterson's sound design makes highly effective use of both natural sound and amplified sound to insure that audiences hear both speech and singing over the piano (played with verve by Musical Director Ben Toth) and bass (played by Tim Christensen).

As Michael, Mr. Page demonstrates why Robert Preston won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Mr. Page's performance is a playful con but also a con that the audience welcomes. The White Theatre is an arena space, and Mr. Page constantly interacts with the audience, teasing them, making them the personification of song lyrics, even occasionally pulling an audience member into the show, briefly. Ms. Davis proves to be a talented comedienne and a fine dancer, though her ability to sell a song is far outpaced by the ability of her husband in the same area.

The White Theatre looks a great deal like the Cassius Carter Center Stage that it replaced. There have been many improvements made while rebuilding, however, including an entire floor under stage level that can be used for traps or, in this case, an orchestra pit, huge improvements in the lighting and sound systems, more comfortable audience seating (and a better seating rake so that all may see well), and acoustics that are far superior to the old space (in general, words are understood even when performers speaking them have their backs to the audience).

All in all, I Do! I Do! provides a charming first look at a theatre that should prove to be a workhorse in the Old Globe's year-round operations. And the show's themes of idealized marital and family life should resonate well with holiday audiences.

The Old Globe presents I Do! I Do! A Musical About Marriage through December 20 in the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets ($39-$65) available by phone at (619) 23-GLOBE (234-5623) or online at The Old Globe's website.

I Do! I Do!, book and lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt, based on The Fourposter, by Jan de Hartog. Directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, with scenic design by Ralph Funicello, costume design by Charlotte Devaux, lighting design by Chris Rynne, sound design by Paul Peterson, stage management by Diana Moser, musical direction by Ben Toth, and choreography by James Kinney. With Patrick Page and Paige Davis.


Photo: J. Katarzyna Woronowicz

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie



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