Tom Coleman’s all–time favorite play is the Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt musical comedy The Fantasticks, which features ordinary people learning to enjoy — the hard way, sometimes — life’s little blessings.
“I’ve never read a more perfect show when it comes to ‘Let’s sit down and talk about all the things that happen in life, from birth to death,’” enthuses Coleman, the founder of the Savannah Community Theatre.
Not long after The Fantasticks bowed on Broadway (and began its march into the record books as history’s longest–running musical) Jones and Schmidt collaborated on I Do, I Do. It has only two characters, Michael and Agnes Snow.
Coleman, understandably, loves this one too. He’s directed it before, and will bring a fresh production to The Landings’ Plantation Club this weekend.
“I Do, I Do blows me away,” Coleman says. ”It’s 50 years of marriage, from the wedding day until the day they leave their house. How many millions of things can you go through in a marriage?
“They go through the birth of two children, to ‘I want a divorce’ to ‘Let’s get the kids out of the house because we want to be on our own.’ Then it goes through a wonderful piece where they’re trying to deal with each other for the first time, and they find out they might not still be in love. Then you see them at 75 years old.
“They make you love them, because you’ve known them for 50 years.”
The Snows are played by actor/singers Kyle Price and Florence King, both of whom have been directed by Coleman in the past.
Coleman has been doing SCT shows at the Landings for about a year now, after abandoning — due to the pokey economy — the Victory Drive building he’d previously leased.
He was anxious, he explains, to keep his brand name out there, any way he could. “There was a big fear that if we just stopped everything for a year, and let’s wait until things get better, that we would disappear from the map or not be able to pick up again.”
The “experimental” season at the Plantation Club has gone better than Coleman could have predicted.
“We’ve got some people that are very supportive of the theatre idea,” he says. “I had no clue that they’d tried to start a theatre years ago. And some of the people that tried to put that together are still there.”
Meetings are underway to develop an official Landings dramatic association. “They’re thinking some high–time stuff,” adds Coleman.
“We did Johnny and Me out there over the summer, and we ended up having to put an extra 60 chairs in an already stuffed room.”
He’s also enthusiastic about his group’s recent collaboration with the Tybee Arts Association, on a successful production of Nunsense, and hopes that additional sharing of resources will be part of everyone’s future.
After Landings productions of Luv, Shirley Valentine and Two Minutes to Shine, Coleman will re–assess the SCT’s future. He says he may or may not stay at the Plantation Club, although he intends to keep working in some capacity with Landings theatre enthusiasts.
I Do, I Do will be Coleman’s last directing stint for a little while. He’s looking forward to taking a breather.
In the meantime, he can’t stop raving about it.
“I think it’s universal to an audience because no matter who you are, you can find one moment in there that appeals to you,” he says, “no matter what age you are, and no matter what you’ve experienced.
“Now, you may not understand the whole thing, but something in there will get you. And I think that’s a beautifully written play.”
Actor Price agrees.
“I enjoy being onstage,” says the 36–year–old native of Atlanta. “When else am I going to get 300 people to sit down, be quiet and listen to what I have to say?
“But also it’s the challenge — not only of learning the lines, but learning the meaning of each line. Anyone can get up and recite a poem. I want to know what the poem means.”
Price says he and his co–star took to one another immediately— good thing, since they’re both onstage for virtually the whole play. “I felt like I had known her for 27 years,” he enthuses.
On the first day of rehearsal, the scene called for a kiss between the two performers. “She says ‘Let’s get this out of the way’ and plants one on me,” Price says. “It’s that attitude that I think we both have that will allow that story to be told.”
It’ll be told, for Price anyway, under a series of hairpieces (he’s bald) and careful aging makeup.
“Not necessarily a lot of makeup,” he says, “a little bit of gray, a little bit of lines throughout the years.
"Most of the difficulty in performing this type of a role is conveying age to an audience. So in the opening scene, when I’m 25 years old, I have to have perfect posture, and carry myself very quick–paced. And as I get older, I also have to weigh in all these different things that have gone on through this man’s life.
“For example, now I have a 16–year–old son who stayed out all night drinking. How am I going to carry that?
“Because I don’t have a 16–year–old son, but I was 16, and I’d stayed out all night, and I remember what my old man said to me. So I have to put that in there.”
'I Do, I Do'
Where: Plantation Club, 2 Plantation Club Drive in The Landings at Skidaway Island
When: At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24
Cost: Show only $22–$27; dinner and show $37–$47
Reservations: (912) 247–4644