I Do! I Do! (Upstairs at the Gatehouse)

A musical version of the 1951 play The Four Poster, this revival of the show by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (first seen in 1966) is simply staged but winningly performed.

Agnes (Gemma Maclean) and Michael (Ben Morris) are young, idealistic, and dressing for their wedding when we first meet them. In love, with the world ahead of them, wondering at what lies ahead, sizing up each other.

Through a cycle of songs over the next 90 minutes or so, we follow them through their honeymoon, becoming parents, irritation with each other’s habits, infidelity, coping with teenage children, working through their dreams and regrets, and finally leaving an empty nest.

Agnes and Michael in I Do! I Do!
Agnes and Michael in I Do! I Do!

Upstairs at the Gatehouse boasts a large stage area flanked by seats on three sides. The economy of I Do! I Do! requires minimal musical accompaniment, in this case pianist and MD Henry Brennan, who adds flourishes and detached amusement as the events onstage unfold.

This is a traditional musical score for two people, and each song has the right amount of sparkle: I particularly enjoyed spiky duet Nobody’s Perfect and the wife’s solo Flaming Agnes, but the whole score is melodic, memorable, and moves the plot along.

I Love My Wife and The Father of the Bride are solos for Michael at different stages in his life: one sweet, one sardonic. When The Kids Get Married talks of all the dreams an older married couple still have of what they never did, and will never do.

Michael and Agnes in I Do! I Do!
Michael and Agnes in I Do! I Do!

I liked the acknowledgement now and then that the Gatehouse is a relatively small space, with a very close audience, as Michael seeks some ego boosting for his novel writing and has a throwaway line the morning after his wedding night.

Agnes is the most complex of the two, at first settling for the roles destined for her as wife, mother and shopper, eventually as time progressing wanting something that defines her as herself. The years have changed her, but Michael proves to stay the same, right down to “chewing” in his sleep.

This lively and welcome revival of a minor American classic ran at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 16 November 2019, directed by Joseph Hodges and designed by Emily Bestow (set) and Joseph Ed Thomas (lighting).

Photo credits by Kevin Ralph.