SPRING HILL — The director of Stage West Community Playhouse's musical Jesus Christ Superstar, made a daring casting decision for its production of that show last season: She cast a female in the role of Judas Iscariot, a role traditionally played by a male, usually a black male.
It was an inspired move. Actor/singer Victoria Primosch did a magnificent job with the role and went on to win a coveted HAMI Award, the single HAMI given to the show in a tough season that included the musicals Ragtime and Little Shop of Horrors.
Now director Kathy Capelle is making a similarly bold move with the musical I Do! I Do!, playing Thursday to Oct. 23 on theater's Main Stage. The two-person musical follows a married couple through their ups and downs from their wedding day in 1895 to their golden anniversary in 1945.
The bold move? Capelle cast a black woman as Agnes and a white man as Michael.
It makes sense. Dorothy Ferguson and Keith Surplus are two of the most proficient singer/actors who have ever performed at Stage West. Ferguson won HAMI Awards as Sarah in Ragtime and as Calpurnia in To Kill a Mockingbird. Surplus has performed professionally at Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre, played the title role in Stage West's Jesus Christ Superstar, lead male in Little Shop of Horrors and Younger Brother in Ragtime and has had several lead and supporting roles at Richey Suncoast Theatre, where he picked up a Tommy Award (now Charlie Award) for his performance as Cornelius in Hello, Dolly!
I Do! I Do!, based on the play The Fourposter, debuted on Broadway in 1966, starring Robert Preston and Mary Martin. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 1967, and won for Preston's performance. Seven years later, it toured the United States with Carol Burnett and Rock Hudson in the leads. It was proposed as a movie, but was never made. Instead, it became a television production with Lee Remick and Hal Linden. It's sometimes done with an eight-person cast, most recently at the Ocala Civic Theatre.
It has become a favorite of regional and community theaters, especially those catering to mature audiences, mainly because of what was once dubbed as its "remarkably plain-spoken" song lyrics.
It begins on Agnes and Michael's wedding day and follows them through the decades as they set up house, have children, quarrel, make up, separate, reconcile and, finally, look back on their lives together. The music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones produced one hit, Ed Ames' version of My Cup Runneth Over, though critics generally praised the entire score. The composer/writers also wrote The Fantasticks, the long-running Off-Broadway musical.