>I DO! I DO! by Chijmes and the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre of Florida

>reviewed by adi soon

>date: 23 apr 2000
>time: 7pm
>venue: chijmes hall
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


With the small number of opportunities for dinner theatre performances in Singapore, my experience of this kind of theatre has been limited to two occasions. Firstly a version of "Emily of Emerald Hill" that played in Johor Bahru last year and of course Singapore's own "Ah Kong's Birthday Party". Unlike the level of interactivity that I had experienced in "Ah Kong's", it would be fairer to say that "I DO! I DO!" resembled "Emily" more in that the action was confined mainly to the stage. Instead of taking the role of active dinner guests throughout the entire evening, the audience was merely that, an audience. This did not sit well with the expectation that I had initially, although it would have been difficult to guess given the small cast size. Another quibble I had was with the seating arrangements. Being a dinner theatre performance, the audience was seated at banquet tables. With the hall stretched length-wise and with the stage on one end, the primary disadvantage of this arrangement was that some viewing comfort was compromised. I watched the performance from within the middle ranks and still had to contend with swaying heads blocking my full view of the stage.

>>'This is a musical that will carry you comfortably through the plot and leave you having realised what a brilliant evening you've spent'

What lacked in comfort level in the viewing was however compensated immensely by the strength of the performers. Right from the very beginning, both Bob Brown and Forrest Richards filled the CHJIMES hall with their immense vocal presence. This was a musical after-all and in the singing department both came with impressive credentials to prove. And prove they did with whole-hearted conviction and a stage presence that was at once riveting as it was tender. Vocally their duets were the highlight. Crowned with a harmonisation so beautiful that the fervently aimed for emotional peak was reached over and over again. This was the kind of chemistry I was seeing that would have left no doubt in my mind the credibility of the speaker if I were told that they were married. Such was the believability of their portrayal.

Look out for numbers such as "Nobody's Perfect" and "When the Kids Get Married". These really demonstrate their ability to make an audience laugh. Marriage as theme in this musical is comprehensively dealt with. The major signposts that mark a marriage are all represented, from the honeymoon, the discovery of each other's faults, to the children leaving and to growing old together.

In all this, what emerges is a portrait of marriage being more than fairy tale where we live happily ever after. Here we have real people going through real problems. This universality I daresay is deepened when we realise with horrifying precision the way the stage mirrors reality. How for example the clichés we have grown to accept have basis in reality. In the end, we see marriage as compromise. When a relatively minor disagreement begins to escalate into a heated argument once again, the aged couple now wiser by fifty years of marriage enacts a compromise that reaffirms the effort we all must put in despite our own personal misgivings.

This is a musical that will carry you comfortably through the plot and leave you having realised what a brilliant evening you've spent. The $95 ticket price though steep, is inclusive of dinner catered by SHROOMS restaurant.

Caldwell Arts' collaboration with the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre of Florida will continue through to the end of the year with the presentation of two more musicals in August and December. Having experienced "I DO! I DO!", I would expect nothing less than what they offered from these future ventures.