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Sondheim obliged by sending him 45 unpublished numbers, 17 of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
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
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
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.