Friday, 7 March 2014

Marry Me a Little

Marry Me A Little is kind of like a "B-sides and rarities" of musical theatre master Stephen Sondheim's music. The show, conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René, was originally produced in New York in 1980. It has received a few revivals over the last couple of decades, the latest of which recently opened at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre.

Sondheim has brought us a slew of musical theatre gems over the course of his career. For those of you not familiar with his musical genius, his first major involvement in a mainstream show was writing the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story, which opened on Broadway in 1957. Since then, Sondheim has written the music and lyrics to Company, A Little Night Music, Sunday In The Park With George, Assassins and Sweeney Todd to name just a few of his works. He has won eight Tony Awards, more than any other composer and won the best song Oscar for "Sooner Or Later (I Always Get My Man)", which he wrote for Madonna to sing in the 1990 film, Dick Tracy.

Marry Me A Little showcases some of Sondheim's less familiar songs, many of them having been written for and then cut from some of his other musical works. The show is typically performed by one male and one female, although a "gender-neutral" version featuring two males and two females was produced in Massachusetts last year. A few same-sex versions have also been performed over the years, originally in 1999, when the late actor Steve Gideon received Sondheim's express permission for his gay reworking of the show.
Elodie Gillett and Adrian Marchuck are a perfect coupling in Tarragon's production of the musical. Director Adam Brazier has played around with the order of songs a bit and instead of showing us two singletons in their respective apartments, we see the couple's entire relationship play out before us in the loft they share together until they are unavoidably single again.

With assistance from lighting designer Gareth Crew, Ken MacDonald's set design is beautifully realistic. The couple's apartment is full of the type of furniture and knick-knacks you'd expect them to have and much of the set becomes part of the choreography as chairs are moved about and the sofa bed becomes unfurled during songs.

Kudos to Ms. Gillett and Mr. Marchuck for singing the intricacies of Sondheim while following Brazier's precise direction. Tasks such as eating pretzels, drinking beer and making tea while harmonizing are no easy feat but were executed flawlessly by the couple.

I think Sondheim would enjoy this new production of Marry Me A Little more than just a little.

Marry Me A Little plays at the Tarragon Theatre mainspace, 30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto until April 6th. Tickets at tarragontheatre.com or by phone at 416-531-1827.

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