Volume III, Issue I Spring 2004

Intimate theater, great grub

By Charlene Baldridge


A free Friday is so rare. I was ready to settle into the big recliner and listen to "The Triumph of Love" and "Wicked" when suddenly the thought struck: Sixth Avenue Bistro!

Under the auspices of the Fritz Theatre and in association with Sixth Avenue Bistro, two of San Diego's musical comedy pros, Leigh Scarritt and Duane Daniels, just opened in Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones' 1966 musical "I Do! I Do!"

One phone call and off I went. Restaurateur Jack Gambrell serves up dinner starting at 6:15. The show, with the incomparable Rayme Sciaroni at the piano, begins at 8.

The musical show is based on Jan de Hartog's "The Fourposter." Scarritt and Daniels portray Agnes, a homemaker, and Michael, a novelist, from their wedding night through infidelity, squabbles and middle crisis, until the (unseen) kids depart, and into old age, when they realize the house they've lived in is too big for them now. In the last scene they prepare to move into a small apartment.

Schmidt and Jones, who also wrote the 1960 off-Broadway phenomenon, "The Fantasticks," imbue "I Do! I Do!" with such tuneful ditties as "My Cup Runneth Over With Love" and "Love Isn't Everything." It's that kind of old-fashioned musical that makes you feel good about being alive, and Scarritt and Daniels, who do not need amplification (what a blessing!) do it beautifully.

What a concept – a musical with articulate singers who actually sing musically, beautifully and on pitch! The voices are velvet and the acting is funny, sensitive, sincere and altogether enchanting. Scarritt and Daniels are absolutely delicious and convincing, and you'll leave wanting to return. It's a sublime musical experience, deftly directed by Bradley Flanagan.

My experience with this work began back in the '50s when Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy played "The Fourposter" on Chicago's North Shore. A naïve teenage usher, I'd no idea what I was seeing, knew only that I liked it.

In the basement of the San Diego Hotel there once was an entity called the Broadway Dinner Theatre. There we saw Peter Palmer (Broadway's L'il Abner and Tommy in "Brigadoon") and his wife perform "I Do! I Do!" Peter also performed at the glorious Circle Arts Dinner Theatre that existed on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. (Don't get me started!)

As currently scheduled, "I Do! I Do!" plays through June 19 on Fridays and Saturdays at 6:15 p.m. and Sundays 1:15 p.m. Many dates are sold-out already. Set up cabaret style, the venue holds only 65-70 people. It's located at 1165 Sixth Ave. near the corner of B Street. There is an elevator in the hotel lobby. Phone (619) 239-4196.

Anyone who's eaten at Sixth Avenue Bistro prior to attendance at Copley Symphony Hall is a fan already. The dinner theater fare is Caesar salad, beef burgundy served atop mashed potatoes, roasted skinless chicken breast and vegetables, and a fabulous chocolate chip mocha cheesecake with crème fraiche. Dinner and theater is $41-$46. Special dietary needs are happily accommodated.

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