Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
When the Stephen Sondheim revue Putting It Together was first produced at Oxford’s Old Fire Station theatre in 1992, the selection of songs featured several lesser-known works either cut from their intended shows or chosen from his less successful productions. A large portion of the show was taken or adapted from Merrily We Roll Along, which at the time would have been new to most of the audience given its notriously short run on Broadway. It was strange to revisit this piece so soon after Merrily’s hugely successful recent run on the West End; stranger still that it featured one of its stars, Damian Humbley.
The majority of this impressive cast were already equipped with Sondheim credentials – David Bedella starred in the European premiere of Road Show at the Menier, Janie Dee was in the UK premiere of Anyone Can Whistle at the Bridewell, and Caroline Sheen played Philia in the National Theatre’s A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. The creative team Alex Parker and Alastair Knights reunited folllowing their recent concert performance of A Little Night Music earlier this year at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud theatre, which also starred Janie Dee as Desiree Armfeldt.
The revue has a gossamer-thin plot loosely connecting the songs as the observer (Daniel Crossley) attends a party being thrown by a wealthy married couple (Janie Dee & Daniel Bedella) with a younger dating couple (Caroline Sheen & Damian Humbley) amongst their guests.
Those familiar with the revised 1998 Broadway revival starring Ruthie Henshall, John Barrowman, Carol Burnett, George Hearn and Bronson Pinchot (available on DVD, but Region 1 encoded) will be pleased to hear that this production followed the same order, with a few amusing updates, from minor lyrical revisions (“this is not a Mackintosh production”) to Janie Dee’s arrival (“I’m in Guildford at the G Spot. Doing that thing, you know – with Damian Merrily and Caroline Shiny.”).
The small studio at Guildford’s G Live venue gave this production a delightful intimacy, seating just sixty people. The space was used to its extremities, with members of the cast often singing in the two corner ‘aisles’ between audience members, ending with a group rendition of Being Alive as four ‘soloists’ in each corner. Due to an extremely lucky choice of seat I was lucky enough to have David Bedella sing The Road You Didn’t Take right at my side.
David was deliciously wicked during Pretty Women and Hello Little Girl, so much so that I’m now keen to see him cast as Sweeney Todd or the Into The Woods Wolf. Similarly Damian Humbley’s breathtaking Marry Me A Little puts him at the top of my wish list for Bobby in Company, and Janie Dee’s defiantly strong Every Day A Little Death showed she’d make a perfect Charlotte in A Little Night Music. Caroline Sheen’s Lovely and More showcased her silken voice paired with great comic timing.
Daniel Crossley and Janie Dee united for an extremely saucy Everybody Ought To Have A Maid with roles reversed to make Daniel the serving boy and Janie his predatory employer. Daniel also gave a feverishly energetic and hilarious performance of Buddy’s Blues, and Janie bravely took on the breakneck speed of Not Getting Married – although this tripped her up at the end, the audience certainly didn’t care as she dismissed the fluffed line with an attitude of ‘well, what did you expect’ to much cheer.
The musicals of Stephen Sondheim contain many exhausting numbers due to their lyrical complexity or emotional weight, so this revue must be incredibly difficult for performers as it cherry picks so many of them and demands a small cast to continually deliver showstopper material. This cast certainly succeeded with stunning solo and ensemble pieces in a show which must be immensely difficult to put together.
‘Putting It Together’ was at G Live for a limited run of 4 performances, however there are strong rumours that the team will be reuniting in January 2014 for a four week run at St James Theatre. Keep an eye on putittogether.co.uk and stjamestheatre.co.uk for more details – or follow me on twitter @DealJTheatre!
EDIT: The transfer has been confirmed! ‘Putting It Together’ will be at St James Theatre from 14 January – 1 February 2014. Tickets available via stjamestheatre.co.uk.
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Director – Alastair Knights
Musical Director – Alex Parker
Choreographer – Matt Rowland
Associate Direction & Choreography – Scarlet Wilderink