I Do! I Do!
is unique amongst Broadway musicals of the twentieth century, having been created for just two performers. It is based on the play The Four-poster
by Jan de Hartog, which was originally written in Dutch, and was translated into English, winning the 1952 Tony Award for Best Play.
The cosy domesticity of De Hartog’s play is atypical of his work. His life was rich in incident, including running away to sea aged 11, dodging the Gestapo during the German occupation of the Netherlands
and shipping a 90-foot Dutch houseboat across the Atlantic
on the deck of a freighter. He had sold the English translation rights for The Fourposter
and knew nothing of the American production until he saw a poster bearing his name in New York
Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, the composer and lyricist of the musical, had found fame and success when they penned the world’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks
, which opened in 1960 and enjoyed an off-Broadway run of 42 years, totalling 17,162 performances, before closing in 2002, only to be revived in 2006, where it is still running.
Jones and Schmidt followed this success with two Broadway musicals, 110 in the Shade
(based on The Rainmaker
) and I Do! I Do!
, which was written as a vehicle for Robert Preston and Mary Martin. Preston had found fame as the wily con-man Harold Hill in The Music Man
and Mary Martin had been a star since making her Broadway debut in Leave It to Me
in 1938 and had created such memorable roles as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific
, Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music
and Peter Pan in the musical version of the play. She was also the mother of Larry Hagman, who became famous as JR Ewing in the TV series Dallas
I Do! I Do!
dispensed with the Broadway chorus, all minor roles and scene changes. The action took place across 50 years, from the turn of the century to the late 1940s. It opened in December 1966 and ran for 560 performances. Robert Preston won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, in a season dominated by Cabaret
. During the run, both Preston
and Martin left, to be replaced by Carol Lawrence and Gordon MacRae, whilst Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson starred in the American national tour.
In 1969 a film version was announced to star Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke but was never made, but a TV version starring Lee Remick and Hal Linden finally appeared in 1982. A regional theatre production in Minnesota
ran over 20 years with the same cast who eventually married during the record-breaking run.
In 1996 Jones and Schmidt revised the piece for an intimate off-Broadway production and reduced the original Broadway-scale orchestra to a two piano arrangement.