Highly Recommended ***** I must preface this review by stating the fact- I love the works of Stephen Sondheim! No matter what he puts his hand to, I am in heaven listening to the words that this creative mind sets to music. The Chicago theater community, or so it seems, is also in love with his works (and words) as one can see by the number of productions of his works that are on our stages. Porchlight , American Musicals Chicago Style, is now presenting the hit musical review, “Marry me a Little” on the stage at Stage 773, in its “Thrust” theater. Conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene’, “Marry me a Little” takes the music of Stephen Sondheim, a combination of songs that were taken from the original productions of his hit shows, such as “Anyone Can Whistle”, “Merrily We Roll Along”, “Company”, “Road Show”, “Evening Primrose”, “Follies”, “Saturday Night”, “A Little Night Music”, “Forum” and “Into The Woods” ( I think I got them all), and with these amazing words (as only Sondheim can create) produces a musical review that tells a story about love, longing and romantic possibilities.
Finely directed by Jess McLeod on a wonderful set designed by Jeff Kmiec, this two person revue/play tells us the story of urban singles. They reside in the same building, one apartment over the other. The man is played by Austin Cook, a great musician, singer who as we see from this show is also a powerful actor. The woman by the always wonderful Bethany Thomas, who for the most part has wowed us with “character roles”, but in this production shows us the “romantic side/leading lady” quality we had not seen before. One could not ask for a better cast for this 70 minute production (no intermission)!
McLeod works on an arena set allowing audience members to be on all four sides. The set is designed to be both apartments, his upstairs and hers below. They are identical, but that is of little importance, as it is the music and the personalities of the two performers that capture the audience. It is a Weekend and each of these singles share a night of sweet fantasies. He is a musician spending a great deal of time at the piano. She finds his loudness too much for her, and after countless knocks on her ceiling (his floor) to end the noise, goes upstairs to put an end to the problem.
What takes place is a love affair between the couple. Or was it only their fantasies. We watch them become as one with kisses and hugs, but yet, they seem to drift apart, and then get back to their lives. I see this as pure fantasy, but others seem to think there is a real love affair between the couple. For me, this is a way of bringing Sondheim’s music to a new life. Many of these musical pieces have been redesigned and with Cook as musical director, and knowing his love of Sondheim, that makes sense. If you are a Sondheim follower, there is no question that this is an experience that you will enjoy.
This is a show that is hardly ever performed. In fact, while I know many of the songs, it is from recordings by others (true Sondheim lovers) that have brought them to my attention- Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters, most notably. On the technical aspects of the production, the sound (Keegan Bradac) and lighting (Becca Jeffords) were sheer perfection. Stephanie Cluggish’s costumes and Mealah Heidenreich’s props, fantastic. The four musicians, other than Cook himself, Charlotte Rivard-Hoster (pianist/conductor, Tony Scandora (percussion), Lewis Rawlinson (cello) and Cara Hartz (flute/clarinet) made Sondheim’s music come to life and fill the “Thrust” as it was meant to be performed. The talent in this production is worthy of awards for the perfection we were able to witness.
“Marry me a Little” will continue at Stage 773 thru May 21st with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
added matinée May 11th (Thursday)1:30 p.m.
On May 11th no 7:30 p.m. performance.
Tickets range from $38- $51 and are OPEN SEATING (unless you are a season subscriber). To order yours, and I strongly suggest you do so right away, call the box office at 773-327-5252 or visit www.PorchlightTheatre.org
Stage 773 is located at 1225 West Belmont. There is valet parking available as well as street parking (some metered, some not). If the Cubs are in town, it can get tough, If you dine at Cooper’s, they do have some free parking.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Marry me a Little”. Photos by Brandon Dahlquist