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By Dana Casadei
Posted: Dec. 9, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.
The bedroom of a couple is one of the most intimate places in a home. It's where all the good stuff happens, where fights are fought and love is made. The Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company's last show of the year, "I Do! I Do!," takes viewers inside that room and makes you want to stay there hours after it ends.
The two-and-a-half-hour Mary Wright Bremer-Beer directed show, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, tells the story of Agnes (Stacy White) and Michael (Fred Buchalter). Starting on the night of their wedding in 1898, what follows is a couple that goes through it all it over 50 years of marriage: Kids, fights and identity crises, but most importantly there's love, so much love.
Starting as the young, newly married couple, White and Buchalter are giddy, shy and innocent. But as the couple gets out of the honeymoon phase is when both actors really start to shine. The older they were supposed to be the more they seem to fall in love, with chemistry that gets better as the show goes on.
The fighting starts around the middle of Act One, but it leads to some of the most fun numbers of the evening, with both getting to really let it all loose. For starters, there's "Nobody's Perfect," a duet where Agnes' sass is brought out full force, and where Michael starts to think he's the best thing since sliced bread. This leads nicely to my two favorite solos of the evening.
"A Well Known Fact" is filled with lyrics that would make any ultra-feminist burn red with anger, but you can't help but enjoy Buchalter up there. He may be singing about men getting hot at 40 and women turning to "pot," but Michael's chauvinistic turn is a treat to watch. "Flaming Agnes" is a rich number with a Fosse feel to it, and man, does White bring it. She gets to break the third wall and wear a ridiculous, and very expensive, hat. If it were a different era, she probably would have been up there with the "Cell Block Tango," rocking out with Velma Kelly.
No surprise, "My Cup Runneth Over" was the best duet of the evening. Both White and Buchalter sounded flawless. They create great harmonies and balanced off of each other well throughout the show, but this song was where they did it with the most ease.
As for the bedroom, set designer Kate Southern did a fabulous job. A four-poster wooden bed that doesn't budge, with a "God is Love" pillow, is the anchor point of the room, with everything else revolving around it. There's Michael's work desk and his and her dressers. As the show continues, things are added, such as children's toys and hanging clothes, but the bed stays the same. Costume designer Christa Koerner also handled the decade changes nicely, with outfits that subtly hinted at the era without an obnoxious sign saying things like "1910" or "The year is 1924."
The show may begin in 1898, but the issues the couple go through are just as relevant today. It bravely covers topics that may have been considered slightly taboo during the 1966 Broadway run of the show. "I Do! I Do!" is a show that will continue to age gracefully for many years to come.
After all, love is what makes life "sorta fun."
SHOW DETAILS The Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company's "I Do! I Do!" continues at the Aaron DeRoy Theatre on the campus of the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road., West Bloomfield, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday through Dec. 30, plus Wednesday, Dec. 19 and New Year's Eve. Tickets: $38-$45; $50 (6 p.m.) and $60 (9 p.m.) New Year's Eve. For information: 248-788-2900 or www.jettheatre.org
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