I Do! I Do! (Review)

Fifty years of marriage onstage at Covedale

I Do! I Do! a musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt (creators of the legendary hit, The Fantasticks) is onstage currently at the Covedale Center In the mid-1960s, the show had an 18-month Broadway run. It was popular then, but more than a half-century later, the two-character musical tracing the course of a 50-year marriage feels more like chronicle of domestic behavior in the early 20th century than a timeless tale of love.

That’s not to say that there isn’t genuine emotion onstage between Rick Kramer and Lesley Hitch, both Covedale regulars and veterans of some of Cincinnati’s best community theaters. Enhanced by Caren Young’s array of costumes and some wigs that enable Hitch to age, they convincingly play Agnes and Michael, from the breathless first blush of their marriage to the day they shuffle off as senior citizens. Both are fine singers and actors, and the show’s score offers fine musical material, especially “My Cup Runneth Over,” which conveys their warm relationship.

This show has remained popular because it requires just two performers (accompanied by two pianists) and a single set: a four-poster bed and a few pieces of bedroom furniture. Co-directors Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll bring out its best qualities, but the show remains stuck in a bygone era. (The program tells us the story begins in 1898.) The stereotypical roles and marital spats, while sometimes humorous, are reminiscent of naïve early TV sitcoms. References to details such as an unseen cook and servants, cod liver oil and a “sleeping helmet” keep the show at a cool distance. The Covedale’s wide stage puts too much territory between Kramer and Hitch when they sit at dressing tables on opposite sides of the proscenium.

The folks who run Cincinnati Landmark Productions know their audience: This is the kind of warm-hearted, old-fashioned show that appeals to their subscribers. At the Sunday matinee I attended, many of them obviously identified with this couple, sighing at tender moments and laughing at predictable marital gaffes. But I Do! I Do! has really become a history lesson more than a romantic voyage.

I DO! I DO! is onstage at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts through Nov. 11.

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