Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Stage Door Theatre

Forty years on, this slick Sondheim revue speaks to 21st century city life

By: Mar. 03, 2024
Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Stage Door Theatre
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Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Stage Door Theatre It is, perhaps, easier to say what you don’t get in this revue - unlike Side by Side by Sondheim, there are no big 11 o’clock numbers, no familiar favourites, not any narrative at all. Instead, 40 or so years ago, Craig Lucas and Norman Rene moulded a set of sometimes forgotten songs (some from forgotten shows - in a career as long as his, there are one or two) into a song cycle that coalesces into a mosaic of solitary urban life. This is Sondheim as New York’s Murakami, chronicler of alienation.

That’s a little too bleak a summary of course - this is musical theatre after all! But it’s very much drawing on the vibe of “Another Hundred People” from Company, a song that was in my head, if not in the programme. 

98 fewer people fill this intimate new venue’s little stage, the woman and the man tellingly referred to as just Woman and Man. They are, like so many big city dwellers at age 30 or so, living in tiny apartments, not quite wealthy, not quite poor; there's something missing. That disconnect with the traditional anchors of life (home, family, work) is in the songs and in Robert McWhir’s clever, economical direction. The pair share a space - wine at hand, microwave the source of sustenance, a sofa for comfort - but they don’t meet, because they’re in two separate apartments. In cities, we so often fail to learn what’s on the other side of a wall or a ceiling. You can't help thinking they would both be happier if they did.

Review: MARRY ME A LITTLE, Stage Door Theatre

Shelley Rivers is Woman, the more optimistic of the two. She spends the hour or so run time changing out of business dress and into gladrags ready for a night on the town. Rivers has a beautiful soprano voice which works very well with Aaron Clingham’s understated keys. She could belt loud enough to be heard round the corner in the foyer of the Royal Opera House, but she keeps the power in check and finds a perfect plaintive pathos for her songs. The standout is “There won’t be Trumpets” from Anyone Can Whistle, a flop musical that has many fine tunes.  

Markus Sodergren’s Man is more resigned to the singleton’s lonely night in. He nails the dilemma early in “Bring on the Girls” cut from Follies (or rather redeveloped into “Beautiful Girls”) and, while Woman's spirits lift, his tend to sink. We’re not talking Travis Bickle levels of New Yorker alienation here, but an ennui that is often found lurking between Sondheim’s infamous internal rhymes and tunes that don’t tap your toes.

This is a classy cabaret show ideal for a space of this kind. It misses a little from the absence of a unifying storyline, though one does discern a beginning, middle and end, and the song selection may be more appealing to those deeper into Sondheim’s preoccupations with technique and subject. For fans, this is a sparkling gem of a show, polished by a cast and creative team who know exactly what they want to do and deliver it with considerable confidence and style. 

Marry Me A Little at Stage Door Theatre until 13 April

Photo Credits: Peter Davies


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