Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker star in a beautifully sung, beautifully filmed digital version of Sondheim’s revue Marry Me A Little for the Barn Theatre
“What can you do on a Saturday night alone?”
The ever-enterprising Barn Theatre in Cirencester are getting particularly good at making lemonade out of lockdown lemons and so it is little surprise to see that their production of Marry Me A Little, which had its run curtailed by the imposition of Lockdown #2: Electric Boogaloo, is now available to stream for a limited period, thus exponentially increasing its reach.
Recorded over its final performances by Ben Collins, the work of editor Ben Evans (with Collins co-editing and also with sound editor Harry Smith) shouldn’t be underestimated. They have done a remarkable job in translating Kirk Jameson’s directorial vision onto screen, the film is as slickly professional as you could hope to dream of, with just enough texture in there to remind you it is live theatre.
The show itself is a little bit of curio, a musical revue constructed from some of the dustier pages of Stephen Sondheim’s songbook, including several songs that were cut from shows such as Company, Follies and A Little Night Music. Conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René in 1980, the barely-there plot hangs the romantic travails of a young couple who have just broken up, each stuck at home in New York on a Saturday night.
Jameson’s production updates the show subtly through its design by Gregor Donnelly, including the Tinder sessions and Instagram deep dives that are all too recognisable. And he wisely allows the current situation to influence rather than inform what is happening. The notion of isolation, especially for single people, is all too pertinent but we’re allowed to find our own allusions – something many a director should bear in mind in the evitable onslaught of Covid plays that is bound to come our way.
This production is also blessed with superb casting. Previously co-stars in last year’s The Light in the Piazza, Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker both bring a delightful vocal precision and an intense emotional acuity that makes the concept soar, Arlene McNaught’s musical direction striking in its clear-sighted simplicity and strength. Marry Me A Little isn’t the show to convert anyone not sure about Sondheim but for everyone else, it’s an unalloyed pleasure.