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Marry Me A Little suffers a case of the jitters



Review by David Munro

MARRY Me A Little - now at the Landor Theatre, Clapham - originated in 1980, when Craig Lucas, the playwright who had been in the chorus of Sweeny Todd, asked it's composer/lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, if he could let him have some songs for a show he had been asked to create.

Sondheim obliged by sending him 45 unpublished numbers, 17 of which Lucas chose and fashioned into a story of a man, a writer, and a woman living in an apartment block, one above the other, who try to pass away the time on a lonely Saturday night by creating a series of imaginary romantic moments until ultimately they crawl into their lonely single beds.

The songs grafted onto this scenario were mainly at the time, unknown, although one, 'Pour le Sport' had been done in one of Julius Monk's supper club revues and another, 'Girls of Summer', had been written for a play of the same name.

Of the remainder, three came from the then un-produced Saturday Night; the rest were cut songs from Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Anyone Can Whistle and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

Despite the comparative failure of the original production, when it was moved from its original locale to Off-Broadway, it was recorded, with the result that the songs became well known and the show more appreciated in its many revivals over the last 20 odd years.

As must be apparent, any show which is a two-hander depends on the abilities of its performers to keep the audience's interest, particularly if, to some, Sondheim is an acquired if not exotic taste.

Most of the songs were intended to fit particular situations in the musical for which they were written, therefore some of the lyrics taken out of context require a certain skill to make them understandable to those unfamiliar with plots out of which they arose.

Added to which, there is the fact that most of them were considered wanting at the time they were written and cut from the shows either before production or just after.

Sadly, the Gas Monkey Theatre Company's production fails in this respect. Bryony Growdon, who sings the Woman, and is also the show's director, appears not to understand the nuances of her numbers and, to me at any rate, the point of the original idea.

The action seems to take place in a bedsit inhabited by the man and the woman rather than the two apartments stipulated by the plot and it is unclear what they are doing there and why.

The effect of this is just to reduce the evening to a selection of songs performed against a background which has no relevance and might just as well have been dispensed with.

The man is sung competently by Benjamin Yates, but his interpretation misses the more subtle points in some of the numbers and lacks the attack the songs require.

Matheson Bayley, the musical director, keeps the music going at a spanking pace and his contribution manages to mitigate the lacklustre atmosphere engendered by the performances and production.

By and large, the evening falls below the standard one has come to expect from the Landor and will certainly not gain new supporters for Sondheim nor his music.

Marry Me A Little. Conceived and Developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Bryony Growdon. Musical Director: Matheson Bayley. WITH: Bryony Growdon, Benjamin Yates. Produced by Gas Monkey Theatre Company at the Landor Theatre, Landor Road, Clapham North, London SW9.

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