BWW Review: Showcasing Sondheim with PUTTING IT TOGETHER at Milnerton Playhouse
Milnerton Players opened its end-of-year musical revue this past weekend with Stephen Sondheim's PUTTING IT TOGETHER. A small but varied cast of performers against sleek staging presents a selection of numbers from 13 of the award-winning composer's musicals.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER - conceptualised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie - is a showcase of Sondheim's work that loosely follows the setting of two couples and a butler/narrating-interjection at a cocktail party. Being more of a revue for Sondheim's compositions, the storyline is a bit vague so minimal acting is needed. Unless you are a hardcore Sondheim fan you might not recognize every 30-something piece during this production, but you're definitely going to get a feel for the Sondheim-style and perhaps be inspired to watch the whole of FOLLIES.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER consists of five performers in total that float between group numbers, duets and solos. Simon Speck is a regular Milnerton performer and this is clearly seen in how easily he navigates through this production as Man 1. He has a pleasant voice and makes a fitting couple with Woman 1, Adri Louw. Louw tackles some of Sondheim's more difficult numbers (Getting Married Today) and plays off perfectly with all of her fellow cast members. What she lacks in remembering choreography, she makes up for in a cheeky but charming stage presence.
Woman 2, Lara Basson, is not as memorable as Louw but is a powerful soprano. Her more classical singing style is probably the least suited to Sondheim, but she still makes a lovely clear top harmony when needed, and duets well with her Man 2, Louis Fourie. Fourie has recently made a comeback to the amateur theatre world and is well-suited to Sondheim's tenor solos.
Out of the five, Man 3 Barend van der Westhuizen is a stand-out in this production. His extensive training and experience shines through his pitch perfect solos (Buddy's Blues possibly being the most memorable piece of the evening) and he also has a wonderful charisma on stage (and off) that elevated the ambience of stiffer cast members.
Another good addition to PUTTING IT TOGETHER is the live musical ensemble that consists of Chris Cameron-Dow (also musical director), Tersia Harley, Basil Heald and Schalk Wasserman. Sondheim's sporadic timing is tricky enough to sing, so kudos to the band for holding up their part during the production. Director Sheila McCormick has done well overall to tackle Sondheim's challenging work in a pleasing way. Her own musical theatre experience shows in the way she makes use of the stripped-down Milnerton theatre and her actors.
The minimalism of most of Sondheim's productions works perfectly for amateur theatre, and Milnerton Players has succeeded in putting together a modest presentation of one of Broadway's most iconic lyricist-composers. With the show itself being devised some 20 years ago, I would look forward to Cape Town's community theatre creating a Sondheim revue of their own.
Photo credit: Supplied
PUTTING IT TOGETHER will be performed at the Milnerton Playhouse 6, 7, 13 and 14 December at 8pm with matinees 7 and 14 December at 2pm. Tickets range from R115 to R125 and can be bought from www.milnertonplayers.co.za or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.