Back in 1980 Craig Lucas was in the chorus of Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd on Broadway. When Lucas was asked to put together a revue for The Production Company he got the idea of taking some of Sondheim’s “trunk songs,” meaning songs written for musicals and then dropped for various reasons, and fashioning them into an evening of songs with a story to string the numbers together. The result was Marry Me A Little which takes its title from a song originally written for Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical Company. The show opened in 1980 and then was produced off-Broadway where it ran for 91 performances. It featured Lucas and Suzanne Henry and was directed by Norman René. Lucas has since gone on to be a very successful playwright with hit plays such as Reckless, Prelude to a Kiss and also wrote the screenplay for Longtime Companion.
Let’s just start this review out by saying that a good chunk of the songs in this show have since been heard on a variety of recordings and, in some cases, have even been reinstated back to the musicals they were originally written for. When this show came out in 1980, the concept of using cut songs was novel, whereas now it happens quite often. Having said this, I am happy that Creative Cauldron chose to open their current season with Marry Me A Little because it showcases three fine talents and gives composer Matt Conner another chance to show us his directing side like he did a few seasons ago with his musical Nevermore. It also gives us a chance to get reacquainted with some of Sondheim’s lesser known works and that is always a good thing.
The basic story is Him (Lou Steele) and Her (Dani Stoller) meet, fall in love, have a relationship, and……no spoiler for you dear readers. Yes, it is a real thin plot but the songs are what really make the show fly. Vocal highlights include Steele’s version of “Happily Ever After,” which was cut from Company and replaced with “Being Alive.” Steele’s strong voice also was shown to full advantage in his duets with Stoller. “All Things Bright and Beautiful” is the best example of this. The song was cut from Follies but you can still hear pieces of it at the end of the prologue. Here the two voices blended to vocal perfection.
Stoller’s strong point is her vocal belt and with numbers like “There Won’t Be Trumpets” which was dropped from Anyone Can Whistle, Stoller does what she does best. Another vocal highlight for Stoller is “Can That Boy Foxtrot” which was dropped from Follies.
I think my two favorite moments in the show are as follows. There is a hilarious number poking fun at golf called “Pour le Sport” which was written for an unproduced musical called The Last Resorts. People forget that Sondheim can write comedy songs and this is a prime example of his funnier side as a lyricist. The other is a song dropped from Follies called “It Wasn’t Meant to Happen” which has a touching set of lyrics. The two songs are complete parallels in style and tone but they both show us the range that Sondheim has as a writer.
… a chance to get reacquainted with some of Sondheim’s lesser known works
I said there are three talented performers in this show so now I must mention Musical Director/Pianist Amy Conley. Her musicianship is fantastic and she is also central to the plot of the show (not telling). As most of you know Sondheim’s music is very intricate and Conley’s playing is spot on.
Director Matt Conner does a fine job staging the show. He has all the right intentions for the material and gets the best out of his performers.
Margie Jervis has designed a snazzy looking set depicting the two characters apartments while lighting designer Ken Willis makes the most out of Creative Cauldron’s limited lighting inventory.
If you are a Sondheim fanatic chances are you won’t find anything new in the song list for this show. However it’s nice to come back and revisit these songs after a while. Stoller, Steele and Conley make it a very pleasurable visit. Conner’s staging is a welcome addition and Creative Cauldron’s season is off to a great start. For Sondheim fans and lovers of musical theatre in general, Marry Me A Little is one that should be added to your October theatre viewing list.
Running Time: 55 Minutes with no intermission.
Marry Me A Little is playing through October 27th 2013 at Creative Cauldron, which is located at 410 S Maple Ave Falls Church, VA 22046. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.