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I DO! I DO! fits O’Connell & Company’s audience niche nicely

THE BASICS: I DO! I DO! the often revived 1966 musical by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, presented by O’Connell & Company, directed by Bobby Cooke, starring real life husband and wife Mary Coppola Gjurich and Gregory Gjurich opened on April 5 and runs through May 6, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 at The Park School, 4625 Harlem Road, Snyder (848-0800). www.oconnellandcompany.com Plenty of parking; wine, candy, snacks, basket raffles. Runtime: a touch over two hours with one intermission.

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  I DO! I DO! spans fifty years of marriage between Agnes and Michael, the only two characters in the show. In this musical, set entirely in their bedroom, dominated by a large fourposter bed, you can see the dramatic arc by the song titles, from the early “My Cup Runneth Over (with love)” to “The Honeymoon is Over” just before the Act I curtain, to “When the Kids Get Married” to a reprise of “My Cup Runneth Over (with love).” It’s a favorite of regional and dinner theaters because of low costs – two actors and one set – and partly because of universal themes. I DO! I DO! is a later work by the creative team which wrote THE FANTASTICKS and the music and lyric styling is very similar.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Husbands and wives are always a rich mine for humor. When I ran into Mary and Greg Gjurich at an event last month I asked her about Greg, who can be very “theatrical” on stage. “Tell me,” I asked. “Is he like that at home?” “Oh,” she replied with a grin. “It’s much, much worse than you’d think.” [rim-shot].

Kudos to Collin Ranney for the costumes (and I’m assuming wigs) which were spot on as the characters aged. And to Pamela Snyder for the wide variety of props, not to mention Marcy Mickelson, Production Manager, and Michael Morog, Production, for getting all those props where they should be when they should be there and those costumes on when they should go on. Bravo!

It’s impressive how theaters in Buffalo know their niche, and looking around at the mostly silver haired audience, unable to turn their cell phones off, this was certainly O’Connell & Company’s target market. Certain actors have niche roles as well. Without a doubt, Greg Gjurich as the dance instructor in O’Connell & Company’s SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS (along with the superb Anne Gayley) was unforgettable and far, far superior to the version that came to Shea’s 710 Theatre starring Loretta Swit. And, just this season, his performance as Roger De Bris in THE PRODUCERS at The Kavinoky was a standout on a stage that was filled with standout performances. Also unforgettable. Let me be clear. I think Greg Gjurich is a Buffalo treasure.

However, I DO! I DO! did not showcase his strengths. He seemed confined by the role and, on opening night, also a little tired and out of breath. To be fair, this is an especially physical production, with non-stop motion and dancing on a two-level stage as choreographed by Bobby Cooke. All of that action, including riding a child’s tricycle (very impressive) and jumping on and over the bed, and the prop handling, and the full use of the entire stage was much appreciated, since, after all, the set never changes and there are only two characters, but to tell the truth, Mary Gjurich’s voice seemed to get a little tired towards the end, as well.

And the two-keyboard accompaniment didn’t help either. It often felt as if the keyboards were trying to follow the singers instead of laying down a steady platform to guide them.

While there are no specific time references on stage (no politics, no technology) and while the battle of the sexes has gone on and will go on forever, the show just feels “dated.” The music, the arrangements of the songs, the lyrics are from another era. The original Broadway show starred Mary Martin and Robert Preston, later replaced by their matinee subs Carol Lawrence and Gordon MacRae and it had a national tour featured Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson. How did you feel just now when you read those names? How did you feel when you read that it’s by the creative team of THE FANTASTICKS? If you felt a wave of nostalgia, then this might be the musical for you.  

UP NEXT: GENTLEMEN PREFER DIVAS at O’Connell & Company Wednesday April 11, 2018 7:30 PM billed as “a cabaret format brimming with songs, readings, quotes & humor celebrating the unique relationship between men & women. A spin-off of DIVA by DIVA.”

DIVA BY DIVA: A Celebration of Women! at Connell & Company Wednesday, May 9, 2018 7:30 PM billed as “a cabaret format brimming with songs, readings, quotes & humor by, for, & about women – now in its 19th year!”

And, O’Connell & Company has announced their 2018-2019 season which, starting in October, will offer LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, NUNCRCKERS, LOVE LETTERS, 1776 (regional premier), as well as more cabarets.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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