‘Marry Me A Little’ entertains big

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Joy, passion, happiness, pessimism, satire and angst, the various moods of brilliant composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim are all represented in ‘Marry Me A Little’ at Porchlight Music Theatre.

Austin Cook (The Man) and Bethany Thomas (The Woman) in 'Marry Me A Little' at Porchlight Music Theatre. Photo by Brandon Dahlquist
Austin Cook (The Man) and Bethany Thomas (The Woman) in ‘Marry Me A Little’ at Porchlight Music Theatre. Photo by Brandon Dahlquist

Magnificently performed with an amazingly broad vocal range by Bethany Thomas and artfully sung and played on the piano by multi-talented Austin Cook, the Porchlight production is a special treat for Sondheim fans.

The 21 pieces that make up the show include rarely heard songs.

Conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René and first put on in 1980, some of the songs never made it into the shows for which hey were written.

Adapted later on with Sondheim’s OK from shows that came after 1980, other pieces have been added. But a special joy is the addition in this show of “You are the best thing that ever has happened,” sung by Cook from “Road Show.”

Cook, serving as music director of the Porchlight production, also added orchestration with Sondheim’s permission.

An excellent, small band made up of conductor/ pianist Charlotte Rivard-Hoster, percussionist Tony Scandora, cellist  Lewis Rawlinson and flutist/clarinet player Cara Hartz, sit high up in a corner of the Porchlight space.

What ties such disparate songs as “The Girls of Summer” (‘The Girls of Summer’) and “Marry Me A Little” (‘Company’) to “Second Midnight” (‘Into the Woods’) and “If You Can Find Me, I’m Here” (‘Evening Primrose’) is a basic story of boy meets girl, they fall in love, their relationship deteriorates, they break up and move on.

Event though the whole show is a short 70 minutes (no intermission), it is a musical treat. However, an unforgettable moment is Thomas’ over-the-top rendition of “Can that Boy Foxtrot.” (‘Follies’).

For this story, the boy, listed as the character “The Man” is a composer and lyricist who resembles a young Sondheim, and the girl, listed as The Woman, is a professional photographer.

The show opens with The Man on the floor, tinkering with the piano and The Woman turning on her red darkroom light and hanging prints she just developed.  Her apartment is below his in a clever stage design by Jeff Kmiec.

There is no spoken dialogue. For this show, a Sondheim revue, the two characters sometimes sing solo, other times the song is a duet. Sometimes they are in the same apartment. Other times they retreat to their own space.

No matter where they are, Cook and Thomas beautifully perform Sondheim.

Details: Directed by Jess McLeod, “Marry Me A Little’ is at Porchlight Music Theatre  at 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago in Stage 773. For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252) or visit Porchlight.

 

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