By Jade Ruggieri
A man from upstate New York. A woman from Kansas City. One show in 2010.
A love story itself, Dan Fenaughty and Larrisa Klinger met through acting — doing a show in New York in 2010 — and made a life in professional performing arts. Performing 18 shows together, along with their individual careers, Fenuaghty and Klinger take their real-life relationship to the stage in the West Virginia Public Theatre’s production of “I Do! I Do!”
“I Do! I Do” follows two main characters, Michael and Agnes, through 50 years of marriage from the turn of the century to the mid-1900s, and will be presented Friday through Sunday at the Gladys G. Davis Theatre at the Canady Creative Arts Center. Written by Tom Jones with music by Harvey Schmidt, the classic musical was first performed on Broadway in 1966 and received seven Tony Award nominations.
“It’s a great exploration of marriage, commitment and life,” Fenaughty said. “It’s a universal story told simplistically but with a lot of emotional depth and theatricality.”
Klinger added, “It’s a beautiful look at what happens when two people decide to commit to each other and build a life together.”
With the musical set in a bedroom, the Creative Arts Center allows the audience to feel the intimacy of Michael and Agnes’ relationship through their triumphs and disagreements,has with a universal theme of love and relationships.
“One of my favorite parts about doing this show is that playing a character that spans years, you get to see yourself and the potential of yourself,” Klinger said. “Both Dan and I’ve had moments where we get emotional because we’re channeling people we love dearly. It’s this beautiful opportunity to pay tribute to people who have shown us how to live gracefully.”
Directed by Lee Blair, associate professor of acting at West Virginia University’s School of Theatre and Dance, said there is a little bit of everything in this show for the audience to enjoy,
“I always feel like it’s a little jewel box of a musical; it’s very sweet, succinct and direct in a heartwarming way,” Blair said. “There’s big musical theater, comedic moments, a little bit of spectacle moments and dramatic, touching moments that are very real.”
As a husband-and-wife duo, Fenaughty and Klinger hope to reflect what they learn in their relationship into the play to enhance the complexity of relationships.
“The thing I’ve attached to for a good part of Larissa and I’s life together that has been incorporated into the process of this show is a quote that says, ‘You don’t stay married for the same reason you get married,’” Fanaughty said. “It’s about why you continue to choose the person to be in your life, and for this show, it’s how these two characters keep choosing to be together.”
Through charming scores featuring lovely and entertaining numbers, including “My Cup Runneth Over with Love,” the music shows the passage of time throughout the story and adds a depth to the play that just spoken dialogue cannot always reach.
Blair said “I Do! I Do!” also creates a creative challenge for Fenaughty and Klinger as they hardly leave the stage since the musical is a “two-hander.”
“It’s a romance that lasts 50 years of what we see and beyond. You’ll see something of yourself in the show or a moment that you relate to,” Blair said. “In some ways, it’s not anything more than just a story. If you accept the world you’re walking into as an audience member, everybody likes a good story.”
This is the first time West Virginia Public Theatre has hosted an entire summer season since COVID-19.
“We are pleased with the community’s response to our first offering, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,’ and hope we will see even more people at the upcoming musical,” said WVPT Artistic Director Jerry McGonigle. “We overcame incredible obstacles to get to this summer season and are thrilled to present shows that highlight our range of artistic talents and skills.”
Tickets are available on the website Eventbrite to see “I Do! I Do!” For links to tickets and more information on all things happening at West Virginia Public Theatre, visit www.wvpublictheatre.org.