“Who needs Albert Schweitzer when the lights are low”
Just a (relative) quickie for this as I ease gently back into the theatrical maelstrom after three weeks of well-earned rest. Marry Me A Little is a Sondheim revue at the St James Theatre – not to be confused with Putting It Together, another Sondheim compilation show that played in the main space of the same theatre earlier this year – which is made up of songs that hadn’t previously been used before, whether cut from shows before they opened or taken from productions that hadn’t made it onto the stage.
Given Sondheim’s fondness for endlessly tinkering with his musicals and the now ever-present cultural curiosity that demands nothing by a ‘master’ gets left unproduced, there’s more in here that might be recognisable than might originally have been conceived when the show was put together in 1980. Saturday Night has now been introduced into the repertoire and at least a couple of the songs – including the title number – have been restored into their original shows. That said, this can’t hide the fact it is a show made up of songs that were rejected…
Fans of Sondheim would argue that him firing only on one barrel is still better than anyone else at the top of their game though I’m not entirely convinced that is the case here. As a dialogue-free show, it is one for completists rather than the casual observer as it packs a lot into its relentless hour but fortunately, Hannah Chissick’s production is blessed with two strong performances from Laura Pitt-Pulford and Simon Bailey as two New York singletons navigating metropolitan matters of the heart on a long Saturday evening.
The constraints of the studio space at the St James demands that things are kept simple and so a surprisingly fussy design doesn’t quite come off here, getting in the way more than setting the scene, but the pace of the piece here means it never matters too much. And hearing Pitt-Pulford shimmer her way through Anyone Can Whistle’s ‘There Won’t Be Trumpets’ and shine through the comic stylings of ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot’, cut from Follies, amongst others meant that this was a welcome return to theatre for me.