Ciao! ‘I Do! I Do!’

BILL KLAUBER

Happy days are here again. The skies above are clear again. Happy days are here again.

The weather in Naples has indeed been picture perfect the last few days, just in time to welcome back so many of our friends who summer up north (where it was hotter than here for weeks on end).

And with their return comes also the return of the active social and cultural life in the area.

Restaurants are starting to fill up again even while reducing the extraordinary inducements to diners although a plethora of bargains continue.

The Phil, mostly dark over the summer, is returning to its full week’s schedule of programs and the Naples Museum of Art has reopened.

Art fairs and concerts will be resuming downtown.

Street parking and beach parking are a bit more difficult than a week or so ago.

Yes, Naples is coming alive for “the season.”

It’s like Brigadoon where the town awakens for one day every hundred years. Only for Naples it happens every year and the reawakening lasts for several months.

That we are back in season also was evident at the Sugden Community Theatre as the Naples Players launched its 2010-2011 season with a production of “I Do! I Do!” that runs through October 30.

They say that some things get better with age.

Wine is the first thing that comes to mind. Fine wine definitely improves with age.

Can the same be said about stage plays? Well, Shakespeare’s plays have been around for a while. And here such staples as “Fiddler On the Roof,” “Cabaret,” “Phantom” and other smash hits return as if in repertory.

But, aside from the blockbusters, how about less popular shows? Are they worthy of another look?

One of these “marginally” successful musicals opened this past week at the Sugden Community Theatre.

And it begged not only the question of whether it was worthy of restaging, but also the question of whether such a show can get better with age?

But then, again, the subject of the play was marriage, itself, and does it get better with age?

From personal experience it sure does and having been married for 51 years to the same beautiful woman, I consider myself something of an authority on the subject.

We said “I Do, I Do” in 1959 and pledged to stay together “for better or worse, till death do us part.” Certainly I have gotten more than my share of the better through the years.

But how about the musical play that just opened at the Sugden Community Theater? “I Do! I Do!” is based on the 1951 Tony Award-winning play “The Fourposter,” which traced the lives of a couple from their bedroom conversations where the huge bed dominated.

The original starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the roles of Michael and Agnes. They were particularly suited for the parts as in real life they were married for 52 years until Tandy died in 1994. They were perfect in their roles.

The musical version opened on Broadway in 1966 starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston. Never a major hit, it still managed to run for 560 performances. A planned film version with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke was never produced.

In the Naples Players production, Michael and Agnes are played by John McKerrow and Mary Anne McAvoy McKerrow. Like Cronyn and Tandy, they are husband and wife. And they portray the emotions and actions of a husband and wife over the span of almost half a century with realism and the air of familiarity that exists between a couple who can anticipate the actions and reactions of each other.

“I Do! I Do!” is a pleasant and promising start to what should be a fine season at the Sugden. Future productions in the main hall include Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a comedy about a dog named “Sylvia,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and Neil Simon’s “Rumors.”

And, it is also a promising start to this season’s Naples’ theater scene which includes Mark Danni’s TheatreZone at the cozy Community School’s G&L Theatre, the Gulfshore Playhouse at the Norris Center, as well as theater at the Phil and performances by Opera Naples which will soon have its own house in East Naples.

TheatreZone has scheduled the always popular musical “The Fantasticks” to open its season on Dec. 2 with 10 performances. It will be followed by “No, No Nanette” from January 6-16, 2011.

I am particularly anxious to see their next production, “Blood Brothers.” Having seen it many years ago in London, where it remains a fixture, I can still recall its haunting music and powerful drama. It will run from March 5-15, 2011. “Beehive, the 60’s Musical” will close TheatreZone’s season from May 2-12, 2011.

The Gulfshore Playhouse will offer “Tuesdays With Morrie” from Oct. 29 to Nov. 21. It will be followed by “Unnecessary Force,” Jan. 28 to Feb. 13, 2011, “A View From the Bridge,” March 4-20, 2011, and “Blithe Spirit,” April 8 to 23, 2011. All performances are at the Norris Center.

Do I recommend each of these companies and venues as well as their various productions?

Since, in my opinion, there is something very special in attending live theater, my answer is an emphatic I do! I do!

Ciao!

© 2010 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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