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"I Do! I Do!" runs Oct. 6-30. Call 239-263-7990 or go online to www.naplesplayers.org for tickets.
701 5th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — For John and Mary Anne McKerrow, 18 years of marriage has meant plenty of happiness and sorrow, hope and disappointment, good times and bad.
They will bring those real-life marriage experiences to the Naples Players’ production of “I Do! I Do!”, playing the onstage married duo of Michael and Agnes Snow.
“There are times in the show where we need to finish each other’s sentences or understand an emotion with a glance,” said John McKerrow, a veteran actor who plays Michael, the husband and writer in the show. “For us, it comes naturally.”
The two-character musical that spans 50 years of marriage, seen from vignettes of their lives as they are preparing for bedtime, will run from Oct. 6 to 30 at the Naples Players’ Blackburn Hall.
This is the second time the McKerrows are playing opposite each other in leading roles. The first time was in the Naples Players production of “Little Shop of Horrors” five years ago. However, this is the first time in leading roles, opposite each other and married.
“When they do some of these scenes, I see them acting very much like they act in real life,” said musical director Charles Fornara. “There are certain moments where I can’t tell the difference between Michael and Agnes and John and Mary Anne.”
It also happens to be that Fornara is married to Dawn Lebrecht Fornara, the director and choreographer of “I Do! I Do!” They have been married for three years and also have worked with each other in many shows before. The couple met working on a production of “Guys and Dolls” at Naples Players.
“When we work together we are not husband and wife,” said Dawn Fornara, “We leave that at the door, and we don’t get emotional.”
But the relationship is different when a married couple is on the stage, as opposed to behind the scenes. The McKerrows act very much like husband and wife, drawing from familiar moments in their own marriage for romantic scenes and fight scenes.
“There is a comfort level that makes playing the roles easier,” said Mary Anne McKerrow who plays the wife and stay-at-home mother in the musical.
“The fighting is easier, too,” John McKerrow added slyly, teasing his wife. “We’ve been fighting with each other for 18 years.”
As the two couples rehearsed the second half of the show, their comfort levels wafted through the action. The curtain rose, revealing John and Mary Anne McKerrow dressed in pajamas on a king-size bed wearing New Years Eve hats. A bottle of champagne sat in a bucket of ice at the foot of the bed. After their rendition of the musical’s best known melody, “My Cup Runneth Over,” the McKerrows embraced and kissed.
“Hold, please,” Dawn Fornara yelled, stopping the scene.
“Char, can you remind me get the lights,” she called to her husband at the piano behind the set.
“Yes, dear,” Charles Fornara replied
While the McKerrows waited to resume, John McKerrow gave his wife a shoulder massage.
There are also potential downsides to married couples working together.
“Even though he doesn’t do it, I probably would not take ‘helpful hints’ from my husband very well,” Mary Anne McKerrow mused.
“But I don’t do that,” her husband interjected.
“I know. I know,” Mary Anne McKerrow said, laughing.
Apart from rehearsal, the McKerrows admit they do not have much time to practice their roles. John McKerrow is a real estate broker while Mary Anne McKerrow works at the Naples Players, teaching KidzAct classes and costuming the shows. The Fornaras’ work does transfer to their home life, Dawn Fornara said — until dinnertime.
“I work a lot on my lanai and I ask Charlie what he thinks all the time,” Dawn Fornara said, “He does the same, but the work ends when we’re sitting down to eat at home.”
As director, Dawn Fornara has modified the musical a bit. The original shows the couple’s roles as characters in a theater production. Fornara eliminated scenes in which the actors put on stage makeup in front of the audience to look older. She also disposed of visible signs that the actors were playing a part in a show, such as exposed beams.
“It’s a realistic show that I think will speak to people,” said Dawn Fornara, “Whether they were married or not, everyone has been in a relationship, so they can relate.”