Theatre

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

Throughout the years, we have seen all kinds of homages to Elvis Presley whether it be Elvis impersonators, biographical films, Elvis night at U.S. Cellular Field and, of course, theatrical productions. Of these few tribute samples, some are serious and sensitive while others more tongue-in-cheek. “All Shook Up”, a musical using the music of Elvis, is definitely the latter. Now playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, “All Shook Up” is a story about an Elvis-alike roustabout who comes across a square town where the tightly-wound mayor has unjustly imparted laws against innocent activities such as kissing in public and dancing or the interracial mixing of partners. Though the plot line is as silly as it gets with unlikely, but still predictable love stories breaking out everywhere, it is hard not to be entertained by the music alone.

David Sajewich plays our hero Chad, the leather jacket clad bad-boy drifter with greased back hair who hops from town to town via his motorcycle with the purpose of challenging authority by infusing fun and excitement into boring and restricted communities. Sajewich is very funny in the role, ever so naturally delivering spot on physical comedy and one hilarious line after another. He also sings several Elvis classics with a good deal of enthusiasm, his vocals finding suitable range for each number despite not having the most powerful of voice. In the show’s opening number, “Jailhouse Rock” we quickly realize Sajewich will not be attempting to sound like Elvis Presley opting to use his own singing voice (writer or director’s choice?), leaving a small amount of disappointment for those who had hoped the story’s character so obviously designed around Elvis would kind of sound like him, if even in a comical way.

Like Abba’s music in Mamma Mia! or Green Day’s in American Idiot, the music of Elvis Presley is transformed into massive stage numbers with changing leads, large choruses and big time dance choreography. It was also refreshing to see such an obscure choice of Elvis Presley songs used for this production rather than only the obvious choices. “All Shook Up” included favorites like “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Love Me Tender”, Can’t Help Falling in Love”, "A Little Less Conversation” and “It’s Now or Never” but also added lesser known songs (at least outside the Elvis world) such as “Follow that Dream”, “C’mon Everybody”, “Devil in Disguise” and a heartfelt rendition of “If I Can Dream”.

Outside of the campy over-the-top story that is on the borderline of ridiculousness, despite its borrowed storylines from Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night," "As You Like It" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream", “All Shook Up” includes several likeable characters that are fun to watch and listen to, especially Bethany Thomas (Sylvia) with her gutsy and very impressive singing voice. Callie Johnson also shows off her comic and singing ability as tomboy motorcycle mechanic Natalie Hallow who is crushing hard on Chad while Justin Brill as the geeky, love stricken Dennis is also enjoyable to watch. Matthias Austin gets some of the biggest laughs as Natalie’s square turned rocker father Jim, as deserved, but Sharriese Hamilton (Lorraine) might just have the best comic timing of the bunch.

Cheesy story and all, “All Shook Up” is a very entertaining show with great music, charm and lots of very funny moments. It’s always nice to see the music of Elvis passed on to new generations and this show is a perfect tool for doing so, as it is a production suitable for all ages alike.    

The rock n’ roll hit Broadway musical “All Shook Up” is being performed at Theatre at the Center through August 16th Wednesdays through Sundays, including weekend matinees. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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