Some shows are so easy to review, whilst others present challenges that really come out of left field. This is just such a production. OK, let’s start with the locale. This is the first time I’ve been to the St James Theatre, one of London’s newest purpose built theatres, and the Studio came as a complete surprise. Tucked away far underneath the main auditorium, the Studio felt like a really up-market cabaret bar. Small tables, with flickering if fake candles, lots of chairs around them, and a reasonable sized stage in the front centre.
The stage itself looked amazing, exactly as you would imagine a small apartment to be. A large sofa in the middle, and a massive white Ikea shelving unit behind full of all the bric-a-brac of modern life. Shoes down each side of the stage, and all sorts of ‘things’ under the sofa. The theatre was pretty packed and due to the seating arrangements, people did actually end up chatting to each other, indeed some of the audience didn’t notice the show starting at first.
On to the show itself which is both basic and complicated at the same time. Music is by Steven Sondheim who, in a really brilliant move in my opinion, took songs from many of his shows and put new words to them to tell the story of two youngish, lonely New Yorkers at home in their individual apartments on a Saturday night. The two actors, Simon Bailey and Laura Pitt-Pulford, were fantastic, and had a vocal range that was more than able to cope with the many differing styles of song; and the Musical Director, David Randall, was an excellent member of the team, tinkling the ivories like nobody’s business.
Now, I have to admit I was a bit confused at times by the action. I really expected the actors to share the stage and maybe sing at the same time as they reflected their lonely lives, and this was certainly the way it was with the opening number, Saturday Night, which I think virtually every single person in the audience identified with straight away. But then there were times, quite a lot of them, when the actors interacted and sang and danced with each other. I wasn’t sure if these parts were fantasy sequences or if there had once been something between the two of them and one or both of them was doing a bit of reminiscing? There was some lovely play with props, for example a miniature tower, and one person packing using a Sunday times the other had put down and these worked so well, although both actors kept having encounters with the empty curry container and plastic fork under the edge of the sofa.
OK, before we finish, lets talk about favourite songs. Well, there were so many. I’ve already mentioned Saturday Night, then there was Can the Boy Foxtrot? And bang (from my favourite Sondheim, A Little Night Music). Then there was ……………. Let’s be honest every song was amazing, this was Sondheim at his best, and the combination of words, music and voices was so amazing that I could have just sat and listened all night long. My favourite moment though is really easy. The very last song, Little White House sung by Simon, who ended it with genuine tears running down his face leaving me, and lots of members of the audience with a huge lump in our throat and a real touch of the sniffles, magic!
Review by Terry Eastham
Marry Me a Little
Songs by Stephen Sondheim
Starring Simon Bailey and Laura Pitt-Pulford
Conceived and Developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene
Director: Hannah Chissick
Musical Director: David Randall
Tuesday 29th July to 10th August 2014
St James Studio
St. James Theatre, 12 Palace Street, SW1E 5JA
Performances: Tuesday – Saturday 8.00pm, 3.00pm (2, 6, 9, 10 August), 2.00pm (3 August), 7.00pm (10 August)
Tickets: £15 (previews) £17-£22 (Weekdays) £19-£25 (Weekends)
Box Office: www.stjamestheatre.co.uk
Saturday 2nd August 2014