I Do! I Do!
June 5-6 at 8 p.m., June 7 at 3 p.m.
44 George St.
$25, $23 seniors/students
In the heat of passion or under the pressure of a wedding ceremony, many couples find themselves saying "I do" without realizing they're getting hitched for the long haul. That heat is likely to cool over a lifetime, and the social pressures can only increase.
When the musical I Do! I Do! opens, Michael and Agnes are young and buzzing from the thrill of their wedding day. As the story progresses through dialogue and song, the couple ages 50 years. The only thing that remains the same is their bedroom, with a four-post bed in the center, Michael's rolltop desk stage left, and Agnes' vanity stage right. The married couple are the only characters in the play.
With such a simple set and two actors to focus on, I Do! I Do! shines a spotlight on the songs. This suits Kirk Sprinkles of production company Sprinkles Entertainment. "We're hoping to start some mainstream musical theater in Charleston," he says, "the kind that appeals to a completely different crowd from typical local shows, and can be appreciated by adults of all ages."
Sprinkles opened Broadway Performing Arts Studios in Mt. Pleasant two years ago, offering training in dance, music, and acting as well as working as a talent agent for children and adults. Although the students will doubtlessly provide a core audience for I Do! I Do!, he's using professional actors for the show's run at the Sottile.
Michael is played by Alton Cox, who also directs the show. Like Sprinkles, Cox is a Broadway pro with family in the Carolinas. Cox has many classic musicals on his resume, including the 10th anniversary production of Into the Woods and a national tour of Cinderella. Agnes is portrayed by guest actor Catherine Pichura (Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Evita), another New York stage veteran.
The actors take their characters through various funny and heartbreaking moments that may happen during a marriage — arguments, raising kids, midlife crises, separation, and reconciliation. These moments are all set to songs like "Love Isn't Everything" and "My Cup Runneth Over" by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones, creators of The Fantasticks.
"It's not overdone, but it's still a classic," says Sprinkles. "Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson did a TV version. Mary Martin and Richard Preston did it on Broadway."
"It's a perfect date show," adds Cox, who last played Michael five years ago. "Anybody who's ever been in a relationship can relate to so much in it, especially some of the dialogue. I've seen audience members nudge each other in their seats, laugh, cry, and find out the real reason they're in a relationship. It's a really sweet show."
Cox is artistic director of the Performing Arts Studios, which will relocate with a grand opening in mid-August for a center encompassing four studios in a 4,000 square foot space. "It will be a true performing arts center," he says. "Mt. Pleasant is a great area, but it could use more community arts. It seems from the opinion of all our students that we offer a different level of professionalism, style, and quality from other courses."
Sprinkles wants to extend this level of excellence to his musicals. "The quality is different from other local productions," he says. "This area has so many transplants from New York, and they're sorely disappointed in the difference in quality here. They expect a certain caliber from a professional show, and we're hoping to match it in our productions."
Those sound like fighting words. To make sure he can back them up, Sprinkles is using the swanky Sottile Theatre for his three-night run.
"The Charleston theatrical community is very edgy and contemporary with a lot of its work," notes Sprinkles. "We like to honor the music, the script, and the harmonies as they were originally written. They're classics. Who am I to change that?"