Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Theatre review: Marry Me A Little

There's no shortage of Stephen Sondheim works but there always seems to be an appetite for more; hence the 1980 show Marry Me A Little, in which Craig Lucas and Norman René compiled a number of Sondheim's songs into an hour-long revue. Some, like the title song which comes from Company, are familiar but the majority were cut from earlier drafts of his shows. They're largely either love songs or heartbreak/breakup songs so lend themselves to a vague framework of a story about a couple. There's no dialogue, and looking up the show online it seems that it's down to the individual production to decide exactly what story it's telling. So Hannah Chissick's production at the St James Theatre's downstairs Studio space makes it the story of a couple who are just in the process of breaking up.

So although the two actors share the stage, their characters rarely seem to be in the apartment at the same time: The Man (Simon Bailey) returns with takeaway meals for evenings alone, while the Woman (Laura Pitt-Pulford) is packing her stuff away and moving out. But their lonely Saturday nights are interspersed with flashbacks to happier times in their relationship.

The pair are very good and the complicated songs work well; Pitt-Pulford is especially impressive (Bailey has a tendency to go a bit "if-in-doubt-belt-it-out") and she's funny in numbers like "Can That Boy Foxtrot!" and "Pour Le Sport" (although if the Man took Wii Golf seriously enough to get a golf club extension for his controller, surely he'd also hold it two-handed?) The evening's overall fun and well-sung, but the "story" that's been built around the songs is non-existent and bounces around seemingly at random. Once you add all the furniture, the stage is pretty cramped even for just two performers, and Chissick has barely blocked any of it to the third of the audience sitting on the side (in what seems to be becoming a trend, we didn't even get a bow.) So this is fun for Sondheim completists, but not necessarily a must-see.

Marry Me A Little by Stephen Sondheim is booking until the 10th of August at the St James Studio.

Running time: 1 hour straight through.

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