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Review: Love is in the air with "I Do! I Do!"

Tim Ostby is Michael in the New London Little Theatre's production of "I Do! I Do!" playing through June 27. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

"I Do! I Do!" opened Tuesday at The Little Theatre in New London, and love is definitely in the air for this magical, marital musical in two acts.

Presented by The Little Theatre Crow River Players, Inc. with books and lyric by Tom Jones, and music by Harvey Schmidt, this show promises to knock your socks off -- then lovingly launder, darn, fold and tuck them back in your dresser drawer before the morning.

Under the skilled direction of Mark J. Monfils of Minneapolis, Nikki Bettcher Erickson of Willmar and Tim Ostby of Spicer light up the stage with their powerful portrayals of Agnes and Michael, the show's central couple and sole cast members.

As the romantic romp opens, the audience is introduced to a blushing bride and her groom as they croon "I do's" on a wedding day in 1895.

Bettcher Erickson and Ostby deliver the first of many show-stopping numbers as they sing about "this strange new world that you enter into when you say, I do."

Accompanied by musical director Sarah Miller on the piano downstage right, Bettcher Erickson and Ostby shine number after number, as they deliver not only incredible vocal talent but impressive stamina.

Then suddenly it's Agnes and Michael on their honeymoon night, an evening chock full of butterflies -- and, yes, even a bit of bickering -- as wedding bells give way to nervous goodnight kisses and Agnes' admission that she'd never before seen a naked man.

You're bound to chuckle as Michael tells her she hasn't missed much, just one of the many comical quips in this endearingly intimate script.

Married life seems to agree with the couple in the second scene. Michael sings "it may be abnormal, with drama it's rife, but I love my wife."

Shortly thereafter, Agnes reveals herself aglow in full-term glory just before Michael Jr. -- or Micky, for short -- enters the picture.

Bettcher Erickson's pregnant portrayal is both authentic and absorbing as Agnes discovers and reflects upon the strange details of her body becoming host to another.

Tension begins to brew when Bundle of Joy No. 2 comes along, as Michael and Agnes quickly learn that love doesn't pay the bills.

In a number entitled, "Nobody's Perfect," the dynamic duo realize how much they both have changed, for better or worse, when the honeymoon ended and life simply took over.

The show follows the couple over 50 years of marriage, with all its ups and downs. Albeit a cliché, the audience is sure to laugh and cry --- and laugh again. And cry again. And laugh until they cry. If that ain't marriage, what is?

In the final scene, Agnes and Michael age directly before the audiences' eye, under the direction of makeup artist Paul Schoenack.

Kids now long grown and gone, the time has come for the couple to downsize -- to leave their marital home, set designed by technical director Chris McAninch, which is now "full of echoes," for a more appropriately sized apartment in town.

In the song, "This House," Michael and Agnes reminisce on their time spent together as they embark upon their final chapter of life and love.

Overall, the talent demonstrated by Bettcher Erickson and Ostby is as astounding as it is arresting -- and as effective as it is extraordinary.

No need to travel to the Twin Cities for top notch, knock-down performances when the Little Theatre's got 'em in our own backyard.

Stage manager Michelle Gralish and choreographer Nicki Dyson definitely deserve kudos for the important roles they play in the impassioned production, too.

Louise Mack, Becky West, Jackie Orson, Eric Harp and Ginny Lief also add their many talents to the show with costumes, props and lighting.

Don't forget to say "I Do! I Do!" to this fun-filled production at the Little Theatre, this week and next.

And no need to sign a pre-nup! This baby's a keeper.