Stage Door Records has said "I Do!" to the classic musical by the team of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. I Do, I Do! opened on November 5, 1966 at Broadway's 46th Street Theatre (today, the home of Hamilton) in producer David Merrick and director-choreographer Gower Champion's production starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston. The London production made its premiere on May 16, 1968 at the Lyric Theatre, soon to host 2:22: A Ghost Story. Lucia Victor's recreation of Gower Champion's original staging starred Anne Rogers and Ian Carmichael. Like the New York production, it was recorded by RCA Victor. Now, that long out-of-print London Cast Recording has made its debut on CD today as an expanded edition from Stage Door's Cast Album Masters Series.
Jan de Hartog's Tony Award-winning 1951 play The Fourposter featured just two characters (originally portrayed by Dulcie Gray and her real-life husband Michael Denison in London, and another real-life couple, Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn in New York). Chronicling Michael and Agnes' married life from 1890 to 1925, it offered two meaty, dramatic roles; Rex Harrison and his second of six wives, Lilli Palmer, played the parts in the 1952 film version. It was appealing to producers, too, as the show took place entirely in one setting: the couple's bedroom, the location of their large fourposter bed.
A musical adaptation was an attractive prospect. In 1963, composer-lyricist-librettist Martin Kalmanoff's No Bed of Roses played the U.S. summer stock circuit, but a planned Broadway production to star Biff McGuire and Jeannie Carson never made it to the Main Stem. David Merrick picked up the rights and turned to the songwriters behind his 1963 hit musical 110 in the Shade, Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. To direct and choreograph, Merrick enlisted Gower Champion, whose staging of Hello, Dolly! for Merrick was still packing houses at the St. James Theatre. The same designers as Dolly - Oliver Smith (sets), Freddy Wittop (costumes), and Jean Rosenthal (lighting) - were sure to give the new musical the same amount of luster.
Jones and Schmidt's show, christened with the zippier title I Do! I Do!, reset the action to a span of 50 years. Though it was well-received in pre-Broadway engagements in Boston and Washington, the creative team delayed the New York opening to schedule a third tryout in Cincinnati where they could further hone the show. Happy with its final form, cast album sessions were held the week before the Broadway opening. Though not married to one another, Martin and Preston - two of the biggest Broadway stars of the era - beautifully captured the ups and downs of married life with authentic emotion. Upon the show's opening, critics lavished it with praise. Though the show had just two characters and one central setting, it was able to fill the large 46th Street Theatre with Martin and Preston's outsized personalities and a large orchestra playing charts by another Dolly alumnus, Philip J. Lang. Jones and Schmidt's dynamic, varied score even spun off a top ten Pop hit and an AC chart-topper with Ed Ames' rendition of the lovely "My Cup Runneth Over." Aretha Franklin, Al Martino, Jerry Vale, and the Lennon Sisters were among the other artists who recorded the song.
The Broadway production played a healthy 561-performance run. By the time it closed on June 15, 1968, Martin and Preston were on the road with the show, ceding the Broadway run to Carol Lawrence and Gordon MacRae. Almost one month to the day before the Broadway closing, the London production opened. Produced by H.M. Tennent Ltd., it starred stage and screen veteran Ian Carmichael (The World of Wooster, I'm All Right, Jack) and Anne Rogers, the original Polly Browne in The Boy Friend and a subsequent Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on both a U.S. tour and in the West End. (Anne's luminous presence had much in common with Julie Andrews, who followed in Anne's footsteps by originating Polly in New York; Anne then followed Julie into My Fair Lady.)
Gower Champion's associate Lucia Victor helmed the U.K. production which made subtle revisions to Jones' text to anglicize it. Reflecting the script's universality, the production would not take place in America but in England (where The Fourposter had debuted). Champion himself conducted the final rehearsals, giving his stamp of approval to the duo's poignant new interpretation. Like the U.S. production, the British one played a pre-London tour before opening in the West End. Sadly, the London critics weren't as effusive as their American counterparts, and the show shuttered after just 115 performances. But the cast recording produced by Norman Newell preserved Rogers and Carmichael's vivid performances as well as musical director Ian MacPherson's unique handling of the Philip J. Lang orchestrations (which in London were adapted to feature one piano, rather than two). It remains the only other English-language recording of the show with a full orchestra; more recent revivals have taken to scaling down the show with just pianos. The 17-song sequence follows that of the Broadway cast album.
I Do! I Do! has lived on over the years; Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson headlined a U.S. tour, and Lee Remick and Hal Linden performed it for television. David Garrison and Karen Ziemba starred in a small-scale New York revival (the cast album of which was recently reissued on CD by Kritzerland). Sadly, an announced movie version to star Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke never panned out.
For its world premiere of the London Cast Recording, Stage Door has added eight bonus tracks - four apiece from each of the stars. These encompass all four songs from Rogers' self-titled EP recorded during her West End stint in My Fair Lady (and featuring that musical's "I Could Have Danced All Night") and four tracks from Carmichael's solo album Girl Crazy (also from 1960). Stage Door's reissue has been sourced from the original master tapes. It includes a 12-page booklet with liner notes by Stewart Nicholls drawing on a new interview with Anne Rogers. (Ian Carmichael passed away in 2010 at the age of 89.) I Do! I Do! is out today in the U.K. (and next Friday in North America) at the links below. Copies are shipping everywhere directly from Stage Door.
- All the Dearly Beloved/Together Forever/I Do! I Do!
- I Love My Wife
- Something Has Happened
- My Cup Runneth Over
- Love Isn't Everything
- Nobody's Perfect
- A Well-Known Fact
- Flaming Agnes
- The Honeymoon Is Over
- Where Are the Snows?
- When the Kids Get Married
- The Father of the Bride
- What Is a Woman
- Someone Needs Me
- Roll Up the Ribbons
- This House
- The Night They Invented Champagne - Anne Rogers
- Blue Moon - Anne Rogers
- My Wonderful One - Anne Rogers
- I Could Have Danced All Night - Anne Rogers
- Money Isn't Everything - Ian Carmichael
- Love Me Tomorrow - Ian Carmichael
- Ours - Ian Carmichael
- Girl Crazy - Ian Carmichael
Tracks 18-21 from Anne Rogers, HMV EP 7EG 8564, 1960
Tracks 22-25 from Girl Crazy, Decca LK 4335, 1960