Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!
The musical, with books and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, tells the story of the marriage between Michael and Agnes, from the time of their wedding in 1895 until 1945. All of the action takes place in their bedroom with a fourposter bed (The story was taken from the play by Jan de Hartog, The Fourposter). It opened on Broadway with Robert Preston and Mary Martin, and Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson toured with a production in 1973.
We see the ups and downs of the marriage, with songs to enhance the emotion. Most of the songs deliver on their purpose, but the beautiful, "My Cup Runneth Over" is just luscious. The song became a hit for Ed Ames in the 1960s and was covered by countless recording artists, including Aretha Franklin. While much of the story is sentimental (not really a criticism), there are a couple of rough patches in the marriage that dig into the more serious challenges of a long-term relationship. All and all, across the 50 years we see a robust affirmation of marriage.
One interesting twist in the Desert Rose production is the casting. While Durden and Coffing play the couple at a young age, the older versions are played by Coffing's parents, Mark and Carol Coffing. Another Coffing daughter, Natasha, is half of the musical duo providing accompaniment, playing violin with Ben Jacobson on piano. It's an impressive family affair.
Durden and Evelyn Coffing were paired up in Desert Rose's last production, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, where they were delightful in both song and acting. Here, they're every bit as strong, even though the material isn't as bright and effervescent. Coffing is exquisitely adorable, offering a tremendously expressive voice, and Durden just keeps growing in his acting and singing. The first act, which is almost entirely Durden and Coffing, is just delicious. In addition to the power these two actors bring individually, they also ignite a bright chemistry together.
The second act features the couple 50 years later. While Mark and Carol Coffing give it their all, they just don't rise to the energy and pizazz of the earlier scenes. Perhaps this is partly due to a weaker story and song in the second act. At any rate, much of the air goes out of the musical at that point. The energy picks back up when Durden and Coffing return toward the close.
The live musical accompaniment is wonderful. This is the third time I've seen Jacobson at the keyboards, and the second time I've seen Coffing. Jacobson has grown considerably since I first saw him in Beehive! The 60s Musical, which was his first go-round with a musical. Coffing displays a lovely musical touch. It's not surprising to learn she tours this country and Ireland as part of the musical duo, the Singing Pilgrims.
Director Montroy has consistently delivered strong productions at the Desert Rose. This one has a lagging second act, but the first act is pure pleasure. The support crew includes Karen Byers offering choreography, props, costumes, and set dressing. Set design is by Shiela Freed, music design is by Montroy, and lighting design is by Evelyn Coffing.
I Do! I Do! I Do! I Do!, through July 7, 2019, at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 6921 Montgomery Avenue NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:00. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students, seniors, and ATC members. For reservations, visit desertroseplayhouse.net