Though it’s corny and cliché, “I Do! I Do!,” the 1966 musical about marriage by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, nonetheless expresses universal truths — and has pleasing melodies to boot. For the second show of its 55th season, after a break for COVID in 2020, Woodminster Summer Musicals has mounted a lovely production of the surprisingly rarely performed — at least around the Bay Area – show.
On Sunday evening, appearing before a limited capacity audience on temperate evening in scenic Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland, Leslie Ivy and Gary Stanford Jr. did a nice job filling the rustic amphitheater’s big stage in the two-person show famous for being easy to produce. (In non-pandemic years, Woodminster shows typically have large casts of budding singing and dancing thespians in big, enthusiastic chorus numbers.)
In this intimate show, in roles originated by Mary Martin and Robert Preston (who earned a Tony Award) on Broadway, Ivy and Stanford, local community theater favorites, are appealing as a couple going through the ups and downs of married life — for decades – beginning in 1898 and concluding 60 years later.
In the brief prologue downstage, bride Agnes and groom Michael are at their wedding. After they conclude their vows, Agnes cutely throws her bouquet to conductor Mark Dietrich (also the show’s musical director) behind the podium.
Then a bed rolls onstage, and the remainder of the action takes place in the bedroom.
Things move briskly from the wedding-night innocence of “Goodnight” (they’ve never before seen a person of the opposite gender undressed); to the costs of parenthood in “Love Isn’t Everything” (it doesn’t pay for doctors, diapers or toys, but it makes things “sorta” fun); to marital squabbles in “Nobody’s Perfect” (in which they list each other’s irritating habits); and seeing their own children grown and coupled in the funny “When the Kids Get Married” and “The Father of the Bride” (in which Michael cries: “My daughter is marrying an idiot,” eliciting a hearty laugh from the audience).
And although Jones’ book isn’t nuanced or complex (the plot is slim and the characters change their minds without seeming cause), his lyrics are clever at points and do capture the emotions and irrationality of love.
Paired with Schmidt’s easy melodies, the songs comprise a likable soundtrack. It’s surprising that none — particularly the pure, touching ballads “Something Has Happened” and “What Is a Woman?” — have become classics. On Sunday, renditions by Ivy, who starred in “Caroline, Or Change” at San Francisco’s Ray of Light Theatre and “Sister Act” with Broadway by the Bay, were wonderfully soulful and evocative. Meanwhile, Stanford, a veteran of dozens of Bay Area musicals, got in a few fun top-hat-and-tails, soft-shoe numbers. Under direction by Woodminster veteran Joel Schlader, however, he had an inordinate number of onstage costume changes. One wonders if Broadway director Gower Champion had Preston jumping in and out of nightshirts, suits and formal wear.
Note: The troupe procured excellent period costumes, particularly Agnes’ wedding gown, plumed hats and shiny pajamas, from a Florida outfit called Costume World Theatrical.
At pianos at each side of the stage, Amy Belles and Joan Cifarelli provided nicely spare and pleasing musical accompaniment, alongside sweet and simple choreography by Sarah Pon and Blake Henessy-York.
I Do! I Do!
Presented by Woodminster Summer Musicals
Where: Woodminster Amphitheater, Joaquin Miller Park, 3540 Sanborn Drive, Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 13-15, Aug. 20-22
Tickets: $20 to $40
Contact: (510) 531-9597, woodminster.com