Pros: A great showcase for the vocal talent of the two leads and packed full of lesser-known Sondheim pieces.
Cons: A thin storyline but enough to serve the purpose of providing a basis for linking a series of songs. Non-Sondheim fans may be less impressed.
The studio downstairs at St James Theatre hosts a wide variety and constantly changing menu of performances. An intimate space with a small mezzanine and its own bar, it’s the ideal setting for this particular Stephen Sondheim production. It was conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene around 1980 when Lucas had been offered the opportunity to create a late-night cabaret. Sondheim had been something of a mentor to Lucas and had told him of a stash of songs he’d written and stored away. With the task of creating a new production, Lucas asked if Sondheim would be prepared to let him have some songs to use. Sondheim generously provided a selection, though he wasn’t directly involved beyond that. Marry Me A Little is the resulting show.
The storyline is thin; a man and a woman, both single and lonely, in New York on a Saturday night. Both sing of their dreams and desires to find love whilst unaware that they’re just a floor apart. It’s enough of a thread to carry a themed selection of songs; much like pretty gems on a necklace. Laura Pitt-Pulford and Simon Bailey are both excellent. Their vocals suit the songs well and they manage to conjure real characterisation from the slender tale. I especially enjoyed ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot!’.
The small set is a compact living room which acts as home to both solo dwellers but is mostly utilised by both of them at the same time. A clever way to maximise on limited space. Occasionally the voices feel a little too powerful for the space but it’s a minor quibble.
Ultimately this is a collector’s piece for die-hard Sondheim fans. Packed with tunes that may not have seen the light of day otherwise, plus some songs dropped from musicals but were later reintroduced. For those less familiar with Mr Sondheim, it may possibly seem a little monotonous but running at about an hour, it’s certainly a pleasant way to unwind with a glass of wine.
Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Conceived and developed by: Craig Lucas and Norman Rene
Director: Hannah Chissick
Musical Director/Piano: David Randall
Producers: Aria Entertainment / Guy James / Knockhardy Productions
Booking Until: 10 August 2014
Box Office: 0844 264 2140
Booking Link: http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/events/marry-me-a-little/