Ben Gierhart, Jordan Price, Lauren McCombs & Debbie Hill in Marry Me A Little.
Marry Me A Little
Songs by Stephen Sondheim
Conceived & Developed by Craig Lucas & Norman Rene
Directed by Michael J. Drury
Musical Direction by John Austin Clark
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2014 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
For such a deceptively simple show, there are an awful lot of names in the credits. More, in fact, than are in the cast. But despite the one-act structure, this is Sondheim, and that always means complexity and challenge, even if the songs are cast-offs from previous shows.
The premise of Marry Me A Little is to use those songs to form a romantic narrative that is as loose as the vocal arrangements are tight. In this production, although the songs’ original subject was the complication of relationships between men and women, we see same-sex pairings among a cast of two men and two women. The show is flexible enough because of the impressionistic presentation of scenes that make it more a meditation on love and longing, emotions that are universal.
Eighteen songs from A Little Night Music, Follies, Company, and other shows, cut for various reasons (a nifty insert explaining the circumstances is included in the program) are largely removed from their original context but come to vivid and heartfelt life here. Of course, even cast-off Sondheim is of a quality to merit attention, and these are extraordinarily beautiful and intelligent songs.
Musical director John Austin Clark, who also accompanies the performance on keyboard, has arranged the vocals with finesse, and the four actors deliver in kind. Sondheim is challenging for even trained singers, but the results here are very rewarding. Ben Gierhart and Jordan Price have delightful and humorous duets in “Can That Boy Foxtrot” and “Bang!”, while Lauren McCombs and Deborah Hill match their impact with their own pairing in “Your Eyes Are Blue” and “Pour le Sport”. The latter song, in which two women parody the patriarchal reverence for the sport of golf, was perhaps the comic highlight of the evening. More wistful moments can be found in delicate solo work such as Ms. Hill’s lovely reading of “The Girls of Summer”.
Several numbers are shared by all four, and it is in these passages that the beauty and complexity of the music and lyrics are most assuredly on display. The focus and harmony are handed back and forth with complete confidence, and is reinforced by fluid blocking and open setting that allows the numbers to flow seamlessly. The pace never seems rushed, but the whole thing is over way too soon, clocking in at a very brief sixty minutes.
Marry Me A Little arrives as a suitable closer for Pandora’s season about marriage equality, and handily coincides with Pride Weekend. It represents the quality we expect from this company while allowing the theme to rest easily within one of the best scores you’ll encounter this summer.
Marry Me A Little
June 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 @ 7:30 p.m.
June 22 & 29 @ 5:30 p.m. & June 28 2:00 pm
At The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
Louisville, KY 40202