How often do an artist’s deleted tunes strike a chord with their fans? Though it is rare, Stephen Sondheim is an exception to the rule.
The Diversionary Theatre’s production of Marry Me a Little is a revue comprised of expunged songs from Sondheim’s previous work including A Little Night Music, Company, Follies and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The musical numbers tell a fairly simple story about two people living in separate quarters in the same New York City apartment building. The audience sees their parallel lives as the individuals, go about their “Saturday night” routines and try their best to find happiness and a romantic partner.
There are three versions of Marry Me a Little that are currently playing at the Diversionary. One stars a man (Jacob Caltrider) and woman (Sarah Errington), another features two men (Caltrider and Stewart Calhoun) and a third revolves around two women (Errington and Mitzi Michaels). This review is about the two women, though I’m sure the other renditions are also worth checking out.
Michaels continues a strong year of performances with her deeply layered work. From note to note, Michaels displays different sides to her part, that she comes across as extremely realistic and relatable.
Her voice is rich and conveys so much during the brisk 75-minute one act play. Michaels can sound angelic and pretty, but she is not afraid to be raw and intense, which even occasionally happens in the same song.
Errington has plenty of charisma to spare as a single city girl whose sunny personality is endless. She brightens up the stage and appears to be having a ball with Sondheim’s music and lyrics. Singing with clear passion and enthusiasm; her fresh take on the title song, “Marry Me a Little,” is full of powerful belting and giddy joy.
Pianist’s, Tony Houck, musical direction gives Marry Me a Little an intimate feel and he handles Sondheim’s difficult melodies with aplomb. His piano playing helps add to tonal changes throughout each number.
James Vasquez’s direction keeps attendees invested in the original plot. If his attention to the performers and their adventures wasn’t so precise, viewers might have only been entertained by the music as opposed to the characters.
His choreography is sparse, but inventive, especially in “Pour Le Sport.” The ditty is one of the breezier sequences of the engagement.
Vasquez is also responsible for the scenic design in Marry Me a Little. The urban setting feels real and gives the production a modern edge that is identifiable to many young adults.
What might be the most lasting impact of Vasquez’s involvement, is that he is the first to tell the tale from the point of view of two ladies who just so happen to be gay. Vasquez does not overemphasize this fact, which makes their journeys all the more convincing. Since there doesn’t seem to be any hidden political or social agendas or obvious sermonizing, “Marry Me a Little” is that much more impactful for having its main message be about love, no matter your sexual orientation.
Kevin Anthenill’s sound design also impresses by including noises of the city, from police sirens, to audio footage from a subway PA System. Even before the opening scene, it is hard not to be immersed in this depiction of New York, which is due to Anthenill’s work in conjunction with Vasquez’s set.
Marry Me a Little is a creative experience that pays tribute to Sondheim’s artistry, as well as a deeply affecting and honest statement about human relationships.
[box] Marry Me a Little plays at Diversionary Theatre Sundays at 2, Mondays at 8, Thursdays at 8, Fridays at 8, and Saturdays at 8. Tickets are $35, $51 for premium, and may be purchased at the box office, by calling (619)220-0097, or by visiting the Diversionary website. Running Time: about an hour and 15 minutes.