Thursday, 20 April 2017 11:05

Review: "Marry Me A Little" at Stage 773

How nice that even songs Stephen Sondheim cut from his own musicals can still find a home. “Marry Me a Little” is a 1981 songbook musical assembled by Sondheim. It’s a review of songs he wrote for various musicals in the 60's and 70's but were cut or unfinished. “Marry Me a Little” is a show performed without dialogue. The plot is pretty simple: a man (Austin Cook) and a woman (Bethany Thomas) are two artists who live a floor apart in a New York City apartment building. A chance meeting sends them down a standard relationship path. Or does it? 

 

You may already be asking yourself, why see this show? To be fair, it’s not a great script and like its sister Sondheim review “Putting it Together” – opinions are generally mixed. The script isn’t the point though. “Marry Me a Little” is a great chance to glean some insight into Sondheim’s creative process and hear some strong voices singing great songs you may not otherwise be familiar with. 

 

Director Jess McLeod’s vision for this semi-modernized “Marry Me a Little” is sleek and cool. The décor in both apartments looks directly out of a West Elm catalog. Costumes by Stephanie Cluggish fit right in, you’ll definitely want a pair of the cool shoes The Woman struts around in. 

 

What will certainly resonate after an hour and a half of continuous singing are these two voices. It would difficult for any co-star to match the vocal talents of Bethany Thomas, but Austin Cook holds his own. Cook is also the music director here and spends a great deal of the show parked at the piano. It’s nice to see the usual music director on stage and killing the piano. Without speaking a single word, these two are selling the magic of romance, all its ups and downs. If there’s one number worth coming for it has to be “Can That Boy Foxtrot” originally written for “Follies.” Bethany Thomas’ playful and sexy interpretation will bring a smile to your face. 

 

“Marry Me a Little” may not be the opus “Sunday in the Park with George” but it’s a great way to spend some time with Sondheim’s lyrical genius. With a short run time and overly romantic plotline, this stylish production would surely make for a charming first date. 

 

Through May 21 at Stage 773. 1225 W Belmont Ave. 773-327-5252

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Stephen Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little" is just around the corner, but how much do you really know about this Porchlight premiere? Here are 10 things you might not know about this rarely seen Stephen Sondheim revue - Opening April 14 at Stage 773! Tickets and show information are available at http://porchlightmusictheatre.org/marry-me-a-little/.

 

"Marry Me a Little" debuted professionally in 1981 off-Broadway at The Actors Playhouse. The production set into a new dramatic context songs cut from Sondheim musicals produced up until that time, as well as songs from his then-unproduced musical "Saturday Night," "The Last Resorts," an abandoned project he was working on with playwright Jean Kerr, and "The Girls of Summer," the 1956 play of the same name by N. Richard Nash for which Sondheim created incidental music.

 

"Marry Me a Little" is the only Sondheim project that has a cast of two Bethany Thomas and Austin Cook play singles living in the same urban apartment building, both looking for love and not knowing their possible mate is just one floor away.

 

Bethany Thomas recently released her FIRST ALBUM! Titled "First," it is now available through CDBaby (iTunes soon to follow) and is currently streaming on Spotify.

 

Bethany Thomas first appeared at Porchlight Music Theatre in "Children of Eden" at the age of 19! She has also appeared here in "Into The Woods," "Once On This Island" among others, as well as numerous Chicago Sings concerts.

 

Austin Cook has twice received the Equity Jeff Award for his work here at Porchlight. In 2014, he received the award for Artistic Specialization for his work on "Ain't Misbehavin'"and again the following year for Music Direction for his outstanding contributions to our Chicago premiere of "Sondheim on Sondheim."

 

Austin Cook in NYC! Austin Cook currently lives in New York City, where his wife, actress Adrienne Walker, is starring in "The Lion King" on Broadway as "Nala". He has returned to Chicago specifically for this production.

 

Stephen Sondheim and Porchlight

Stephen Sondheim has given Porchlight permission to re-imagine "Marry Me a Little" for this production and to include material written since the show debuted in 1981.

Appearing for the first time in any production of "Marry Me a Little" are:

 

"Second Midnight" (cut from "Into the Woods") Used as the protagonists contemplate children (You're a good person and I'm a good person / You'll be a good father; we'll know what to do. / If / When / How will we say to our child in the night / Nothing's all black but then nothing's all white? / How will we say it will be all right / When we know that it mightn't be true? / What will we do? / I don't understand...) "Honey" (cut from "Merrily We Roll Along") Included to explore persevering in a relationship as things/life get increasingly more difficult. "I Remember Sky" (from the TV production "Evening Primrose") To explore the freedom breaking out of a bad relationship. "You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened To Me" (from "Bounce") Used to explore being in love and writing about it at the same time.

 

Brand new orchestrations!

"Marry Me a Little" was originally presented with piano-only accompaniment. For this production, Austin Cook has created orchestrations for keyboard, cello, drums and flute and Bb clarinet as well has his occasional participation at the baby grand piano.

 

A first for Porchlight

This production will be the first time Porchlight has ever produced a musical "in-the-round."

Director Jess McLeod and Scenic Designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec thought it the best approach to create the "voyeuristic" atmosphere they were looking to achieve for the audience's experience.

 

Porchlight LOVES Sondheim

This is the first time Porchlight has produced "Marry Me a Little," but it's definitely not our first Sondheim.

Other Sondheim productions that have appeared on our stage include:

"Gypsy"

Music by Jule Styne

Book by Arthur Laurents

 

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"

Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart

 

"Anyone Can Whistle"

Book by Arthur Laurents

 

"Company"

Book by George Furth

 

"A Little Night Music"

Book by Hugh Wheeler

 

"Pacific Overtures"

Book by John Weidman

 

"Sweeney Todd"

Book by Hugh Wheeler

 

"Merrily We Roll Along"

Book by George Furth

 

"Sunday in the Park with George"

Book by James Lapine

 

"Into the Woods"

Book by James Lapine

 

"Assassins"

Book by John Weidman

 

"Passion"

Book by James Lapine

 

"Putting it Together"

 

and

"Sondheim on Sondheim"

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Friday, 24 June 2016 11:22

Review: Company at Writers Theatre

Imagine a 70s-era Woody Allen movie set to music. That's basically "Company" by Stephen Sondheim. It premiered in a time when many Broadway musicals were just collections of songs loosely connected by a simple plot. In 1970, Sondheim's "Company" challenged that formula by presenting a musical that was more book than music. The story is even less clear than a classic Broadway show. It's the story of Bobby, a bachelor living in New York City with mixed-up ideas about marriage. 

 

Though Bobby (Thom Miller) is the main character, "Company" is about the women in his life. Writers Theatre director William Brown has assembled a stellar cast of Chicago actresses. Each scene is a vignette in which Bobby learns about his friends' marriages. Blair Robertson as uptight Jenny is charmingly neurotic. Tiffany Scott playing urban Southern bell, Susan, and with costumes by Rachel Anne Healy, looks like a young Cybil Shepard. With distinct performances from the female ensemble, it's hard to pick out a favorite scene from the show, however Allison Hendrix singing "Getting Married Today" is a highlight. For Sondheim groupies, this is one of the show's most popular numbers but also its most challenging with a unique staccato rhyming scheme. Hendrix pulls it off, and makes the comedy relatable. Jess Godwin as April, is the show's last stop. Her portrayal of an awkward bachelorette is sure to make everyone laugh. 

 

"Company" concludes on the bittersweet song "Being Alive" and while Thom Miller's performance as Bobby is a little uneven throughout, he brings a lot to the cathartic final number. In one song, the musical goes from odd-ball romantic comedy to a philosophical question about the nature of long term love.

 

Writers Theatre in Glencoe is rightfully proud of their new space designed by Jeanne Gang. "Company" is presented as part of their Inaugural Season. The show, like the space is sleek, stylish and sexy. William Brown's production will likely be remembered as a definitive presentation of this not-often produced Sondheim classic. With more space, it’s nice to see a show at Writers with some breathing room. 

 

Through July 31st at Writers Theatre. 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 847-242-6011.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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