Saturday, June 17, 2023



Marry Me A Little.

 Conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene.. Songs by Stephen Sondheim Directed by Jarrad West. Assistant direction by Steph Roberts. Musical direction by Elizabeth Alford Performed by Alex Unikowski and Hannah Lance.Technical Director / Executive Producer – Nikki Fitzgerald. Stage Manager – Alice Ferguson. Lighting Designer – Craig Muller. Sound Designer – Nathan Patrech. Costume Designer – Fiona Leach with Tanya Taylor. Set Designer – Michael Sparks. Set Construction – Isaac Reilly, Ethan Lis, Katie Lis. Props Coordinator / Production Manager - Marya Glyn-Daniel. Promotional Photography – Eva Schroeder. Production Photography – Janelle McMenamin / Michael Moore. Marketing (ACT Hub) –Sebastian Winter.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

 Stephen Sondheim has always been regarded as the actor’s composer. Devotees of the late Titan of musical theatre revere his deep understanding of the human condition. Whether it be his lyrics for Bernstein’s West Side Story or musical inspirations such as A Little Night Music, Passion, Into the Woods or Company to name but a few musicals of his phenomenal legacy, Sondheim always had at the heart of his oeuvre  a wisdom and humanity that few of his contemporaries were able to equal. Among these was the little known and rarely performed Marry Me A Little which is given a gentle and empathetic production by Everyman Theatre at ACT HUB under the direction of Jarrad West. West  proves that he is a masterful exponent of the more intimate Sondheim musical in Canberra. I  remember his excellent performances in Assassins, directed by Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg and Company, directed by Jordan Best and in Marry Me A Lityle he has demonstrated this time a keen understanding as director of Sondheim’s music and characters.

Alex Unikowski in Marry Me A Little

Conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, Marry Me a Little opens with two young people alone in each other’s apartment on a Saturday night. The man (Alex Unikowski) is a poet. The woman (Hannah Lance) is a corporate employee. Both find themselves alone on a night when people are out about celebrating the close of another working week. Saturday Night evokes the isolation and dejection of not having company. They gaze forlornly at the street and listen to the sounds outside their apartment window. Unikowski and Lance capture the mood perfectly in the first act of what is essentially a one act musical with songs that either appear in or have been cut from Sondheim’s more popular musicals. The melodies may sound familiar to the aficionado’s ear. The title song Marry Me A Little features in Company for example, and although Marry Me A Little is a collection of songs that were largely never used or cut from later musicals the melodies did make their way into Sondheim’s better known musicals. Everyman has given audience a rare treat and the opportunity to understand the origin of many of Sondheim’s more popular songs.

Hannah Lance in Marry Me A Little
Marry Me A Little is essentially a collection of solo songs, sung by the man and the woman to the accompaniment of a piano, played adroitly in this production by musical director Elizabeth Alford. The first half draws us into their predicament until they meet and develop a relationship in the second half. The songs construct a rollercoaster of emotion from the longing of   Saturday Night to the upbeat tempo of There Won’t be Trumpets and Uptown Downtown.

West directs with an eye for timing and an ear for emotion. There are moments of stillness, carefully timed to capture the feeling and the movement on the set is skilfully choreographed. In what I can only assume is a decision to retain the reality and simplicity of the circumstance, and perhaps the intimacy of the ACT HUB theatre, West has decided not to mike the singers. This presents a dilemma. Unikowski is making his on stage debut after years of being a musical director on many local musicals.At times his voice lacked projectio Lance’s voice is sweet but thin and on occasion she finds difficulty hitting the higher register. I applaud the reason behind the decision not to use mikes, but in this instance the actors would have been helped and the energy of the show would have been lifted. The alternative of course is to develop stronger vocal technique. Maybe it was all a case of Matinee Syndrome.

Alex Unikowski and Hannah Lance in Marry Me A Little

Ultimately, Everyman’s production of Sondheim’s Marry Me A Little offers Canberra audiences an excellent opportunity to see and enjoy a heartwarming production of an early Sondheim that is a pleasure to watch. Unikowski and Lance give appealing performances and their relationship on stage is entirely convincing and quite captivating. Many may recall the lonely Saturday night and the longing for someone to share it with. Lance’s dance movements on the small stage are impressive and after interval, both performers appeared to be far more assured and relaxed. It would have been even more absorbing without an interval but it’s always a chance to meet someone at the bar.

 If you are a Sondheim devotee and you have not seen Marry Me A Little then Everyman Theatre’s production under the clever and intelligent direction of West is well worth a visit on a Saturday night or any night.