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'I Do! I Do!' opens at Playhouse

The Paul Bunyan Playhouse will present the nostalgic musical “ I Do! I Do!” from June 18-22 and June 25-28. The two-person show features actors Andrea Leap and Sasha Andrews throughout 50 years of marriage. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- The first musical of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse season opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Chief Theatre. This opening is a premiere in every sense of the word as it is the first presentation of "I Do! I Do!" for the Playhouse as well. Directed by Zach Curtis, this Tony Award-winning play originally opened on Broadway in 1966. Although set in the early to mid-1900s, the themes in the production are timeless as the audience quickly learns, beginning with the wedding in the opening act.

Agnes Snow, as played by Andrea Leap in her second production for the Playhouse, is the lovely, innocent young woman marrying Michael Snow during the first musical number, "All The Dearly Beloved." Andrea "is delighted to return to the Paul Bunyan Playhouse after playing Jeri Neal in 'The Dixie Swim Club' in 2012." An award-winning cabaret artist, Andrea also creates and performs original concerts when she is not performing at the Chief.

The soon-to-be husband, Michael Snow, is a young man deeply in love, sweetly anxious to join his dear Agnes in marriage, in life, in forever. Portrayed by Sasha Andreev, this is Sasha's first time in Bemidji and, coincidentally, it is also his first time performing for the Paul Bunyan Playhouse. "Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, he has been acting in the Twin Cities since 2004 ... and has been seen as host of HGTV's 'Curb Appeal,' on ShopHQ, and in numerous TV commercials and independent films."

The stage at the Chief is perfectly set for the telling of this lifelong tale of two people, joined together in matrimony, enduring all the trials and tribulations this condition entails. It would be difficult to find a play that speaks so well to what are common themes, and a common bond, for most members of the audience. This one does it beautifully, even for those not currently attached. The sharing in this union, played out onstage in such elegant and eloquent detail, arouses intense feelings of identifying to what are almost identical situations, whether in one's own life or in that of a loved one. The themes in 'I Do! I Do!' prove over and over again to be universal, contributing largely to this play's success onstage and on television.

Agnes and Michael are joined immediately following their union by a hand-stitched pillow from Agnes's mother which pointedly states "God is Love." As they begin their journey together from the wedding to the marriage bed, subsequent pregnancies and births, day to day living realities, aging, infidelity ... the performance lovingly and honestly serves as a painfully clear window into any similar circumstance, any marriage, or any relationship across the world.

For Agnes and Michael, their insecurities and issues serve to remind us how good life can be when one is with the one you love ... and also contributes to the realization that the opposite is true, as well. Watching them face these human conditions together, and separately, we empathize with their strengths and weaknesses. After all, they mirror our own and the relationship this creates between the audience and the performers is a major part of what makes this show so enjoyable.

Running across the country in numerous theaters for years, "I Do! I Do!" was onstage at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre in Chanhassen, Minn., for more than 20 years. The lead actors, David Anders and Susan Goeppinger, actually married each other during the production's run. The play set a record for theater in the United States as it was performed in its entirety with the original cast members. While it won't be onstage at the Chief that long, it does run today through June 28, with a matinee performance on Sunday. Tickets are available online at or by calling the Box Office at 751-7270.

The musical director for "I Do! I Do!" is Katherine Tieben-Holt, joined by choreographer Molly Weibel, stage manager Kris Detailleur assisted by Molly, lighting designer Grant E. Merges, costume designer A. Emily Heaney, prop designer Connor Norton and the endearing music accompanying this production is provided by the flexible and talented pianist Eric Gustafson.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Region 2 Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.