Conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene
Directed by Jarrad
Kingston to June 24.
Reviewed by Len Power
15 June 2023
When Craig Lucas, a chorus member in a Stephen Sondheim show, happened to hear of the existence of some of the composer’s unperformed songs, he asked Sondheim if some of them could be used in a revue that he was devising. Together they chose 17 songs, a storyline was added and ‘Marry Me A Little’ opened off-Broadway in 1980.
The show is full of songs that were unknown to the public at the time. Some were from unproduced shows and others had been included but dropped for various reasons while the shows were being developed. It’s a treat for Sondheim aficionados, hearing tunes that sound familiar from other Sondheim shows.
Two single strangers, left alone in their studio apartments on a Saturday night, pass their time with sweetly secret, unshared fantasies, never knowing that they're just a floor away from each other and the end of their lonely dreams.
The action plays out on a cluttered set, cleverly designed by Michael Sparks. Somehow morphed together, the set represents two separate New York apartments in the same building. The two strangers never meet except in their fantasies. It’s a bitter-sweet show as we experience the hopes, dreams and the pain of these two lonely people, in reality very close to each other.
Alexander Unikowski, in his stage debut, is well known in Canberra for his work as musical director of a number of shows. Regular Canberra musical theatre performer, Hannah Lance, plays the other character. They have to carry the entire show which is presented in song with no dialogue.
Alexander Unikowski and Hannah Lance
Unikowski sang his role well but his vocal quality often seemed at odds with the character he was playing. Hannah Lance sang unevenly and at times harshly. It was hard to understand the lyrics clearly at times. Sondheim’s music and lyrics have a level of difficulty that would test any performer. Both of them seemed to be concentrating on getting the songs right at the expense of character development.
Director, Jarrad West, in his staging did not clarify that the pair were interacting with each other only in their fantasies. This caused confusion in some of the joint musical numbers.
A phone gag, described in the program as ‘gratuitous texting’ was distracting and did not add anything worthwhile to the show.
It was interesting to see this little known show of Sondheim’s previously unperformed songs but the underwhelming singing and performances and the lack of clarity in certain aspects of the staging worked against it.
Photos By Janelle
McMenamin and Michael Moore
This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 16 June 2023.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.