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Marry Me A Little starring Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker

Celinde Schoenmaker & Rob Houchen, Photo Credit Eve Dunlop.
Celinde Schoenmaker & Rob Houchen, Photo Credit Eve Dunlop.

Such is the quality of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrical abilities that even songs cut from his musicals as they were being developed are still (ahem) viable. Marry Me A Little is famed for including in its repertoire a number of songs from the likes of earlier versions of A Little Night Music, Company and Follies (amongst others) as well as songs from Saturday Night, which wasn’t produced until 1998 (this show having premiered in 1980).

As tends to be the way with the Barn Theatre’s recent productions, this one has been brought right up to date, reimagined for contemporary times. There’s the ubiquity of mobile telephony that repeatedly weaves its way through the narrative, with the exchange of direct messages and the sharing of miscellaneous photographs on Instagram. Rattling through nineteen musical numbers in under an hour – without making the performance seem rushed, mind you – the varied tempos and emotions that spring forth keep proceedings entertaining and interesting.

The story deprives the audience of a fairy-tale musical theatre ending. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and I trust it is not too much of a spoiler to say that Ben (Rob Houchen) and his unnamed love interest (Celinde Schoenmaker) aren’t the first couple in the history of the universe to part company, and won’t be the last. While this musical love story may not be ground-breaking, there’s still much to enjoy in the everyday pleasures and frustrations of their lives.

Musical director Arlene McNaught is the sole musician in this production, gliding through Sondheim’s score with confidence. A large video at the rear of the stage displays direct messages, or otherwise backdrops of the city, providing some useful visual context to a musical with minimal spoken dialogue. Both actors have outstanding voices, with the right sort of emotions for each song, whether it’s the rather uplifting ‘A Moment With You’ or the more aggressive ‘Happily Ever After’.

The opening number comes across as very apt for 2020, with both parties expressing frustration at spending another Saturday evening at home with nothing substantial on the agenda. This fresh and energetic production is a good opportunity to see one of Sondheim’s lesser performed works, and for those who like indulging in such matters, some fun in working out (without the use of search engines) which songs were cut from which show. Brief but beautiful.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the charming and bittersweet one-act musical follows two ex-lovers as they explore their secret, unshared fantasies whilst they are left alone in their studio apartments on a Saturday night.

The production breathes new theatrical life and meaning to a collection of trunk songs that were culled from the original productions of some of Sondheim’s iconic musicals including Follies, Company and A Little Night Music.

Tickets for the streamed production will be £13.50, with options available to add a donation to the theatre (which is a registered charity). Tickets are now on sale at barntheatre.org.uk/all-venues

Iwan Lewis, CEO & Artistic Director of the Barn Theatre, said of the announcement, “Marry Me A Little was a truly special production that sadly had to close early due to the latest lockdown. We were determined to find a way to ensure the production still got a proper end to its run and are thrilled that we are able to now stream this for anyone who wants to see this wonderful show, wherever they may be. We remain committed to opening our doors and welcoming back our audiences for live theatre, however after the continued success of our digital co-production What a Carve Up! we cannot ignore the global demand for innovative digital theatrical content and so I look forward to announcing further digital plans in the coming weeks.

Marry Me A Little marks the second production the Barn Theatre have released online this Autumn following the digital world premiere of the critically-acclaimed What a Carve Up!, which the theatre co-produced with the Lawrence Batley Theatre and the New Wolsey Theatre.

The production is directed by Kirk Jameson (Just So, Madagascar) with musical direction by Arlene McNaught (SIX, Little Miss Sunshine), set and costume design by Gregor Donnelly (Daddy Long Legs, Aspects of Love), musical staging by Sam Spencer-Lane (The Last Five Years, Aspects of Love), lighting design by Sam Rowcliffe-Tanner (Henry V, Private Peaceful), sound design by Harry Smith (Henry V, Private Peaceful) and projection design by Benjamin Collins (Henry V).

Marry Me A Little is produced by the Barn Theatre in association with Anthology Theatre.

MARRY ME A LITTLE
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René
Cast: Rob Houchen & Celinde Schoenmaker
Directed by Kirk Jameson
Musical Staging by Sam Spencer-Lane
Musical Direction by Arlene McNaught
A production by the Barn Theatre, in association with Anthology Theatre
Dates: 19 to 22 November
Price: £13.50

BARN THEATRE
Address: The Barn Theatre, 5 Beeches Road, Cirencester, GL7 1BN
Box Office (Phone): 01285 648 255 (10am-5.30pm, Mon to Sat)
Box Office (Online): boxoffice@barntheatre.org.uk
Website: barntheatre.org.uk

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