I first found the wide output of the prolific composer Stephen Sondheim through his revue compilation Side by Side by Sondheim. His songs, whether greatest hits, also-rans, or rejects from full shows, are gold standards in musical theatre, so tend to work in any format.
This is the first time I have seen a production of Marry Me a Little, which compiles songs into a piece which the Barn Theatre has interpreted as a story between two former lovers, apart, raking over the still smouldering coals of their relationship.
Celinde Schoenmaker and Rob Houchen are the pair we first see messaging each other online, then meet in their own living spaces, just a floor apart. An interesting set by Gregor Donnelly literally splits the stage into two halves, down to the sofa, with clever lighting bringing us into each person’s personal space.
Both singers are at a peak here and completely comfortable with Sondheim’s music: highlights include a slinky Can That Boy Foxtrot and the table-tennis back and forth of Bang. Utilising video, Instagram feeds, and more, this is a 21st century take on the show which is fresh and fizzing.
Kirk Jameson’s direction pulls us right up close to the action on the small stage, giving this a cinematic feel. We have seen a lot of two-person musicals this year, some planned and designed for the screen, some originating on the stage. Marry Me a Little has rich material and excellent performances. It looks absolutely scrumptious on the screen (I watched on a smart TV).
A sad and bittersweet show, this nevertheless has that magic of a master composer brought to a new audience. The lockdown has allowed a wider look at this production, which I heartily recommend.
Marry Me a Little is available to stream from 19-22 November. Book at the Barn website.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review Marry Me a Little.
Image credit: Alastair Muir/Eve Dunlop.