Monday, January 14, 2013

Side by Side by Side Reviews of Sondheim

 Phil Tayler and Erica Spyres in MARRY ME A LITTLE.
Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.
The critical waters in Boston are growing shallower by the year, as evidenced by Tom Garvey's recent post comparing word counts at the various cultural outlets.

I've always been of the mind that it is helpful to have various voices on stage and off.

I was looking over three recent reviews of the New Rep's production of Marry Me a Little, a musical revue of Stephen Sondheim tunes.

I was struck by how different the focus was in each review.  While all of them at least touched on several of the same points, each reviewer keyed in on an aspect that would form the spine of their criticism.

Writing in New England Theater Geek, Craig Idlebrook focuses on Sondheim's music and how it frustrates, and never so much as in a revue format:

Listening to Sondheim’s repertoire in the musical revue Marry Me a Little, currently being staged by the New Repertory Theatre, is like taking a master class in songwriting with Sondheim, with melodies that feel both familiar and haunting, easy on the ear and flat-out wrong. Lovers clash musically with competing versions of a fairy tale or declare their undying devotion as long as it doesn’t cost too much. All this musical discomfort can be overwhelming musically without dialogue to temper it; even a Dear John letter has familiar words for the hurt heart to find refuge. In the revue, there is nowhere to hide. 
Meanwhile, Tom Garvey sees a revelation in the cast director Ilyse Robbins has brought together:

 Which brings me back to my first point - once again I've found myself watching a cast that easily negotiated issues and funny twists that would have sent Boston's best pros spinning only a decade ago. The quartet here - Aimee Doherty, Phil Tayler, Erica Spyres and newcomer Brad Daniel Peloquin - all have delightful voices and acting chops to spare. Peloquin, often perched on the top level of a sprawling set, sometimes had a projection problem (the actors were wearing mikes, but the amplification, if it was there at all, was blessedly subtle) - but in general the singing was wonderful, and the vignettes accompanying the songs ran the gamut from haunting to hilarious. 
And, at the Boston Globe, Don Acouin's review is more woven around the concept, or hook, of the production:
Now, nearly a decade after Massachusetts led the way nationally by legalizing same-sex marriage, the New Repertory Theatre is staging a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little’’ that broadens its scope to include gay relationships. It works, and beautifully, too. Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, the New Rep’s “Marry Me a Little’’ is an appealingly understated gem of a revue. Melancholy and uplifting by turns — but mostly melancholy; this is Sondheim we’re talking about, after all — the show underscores the necessity and difficulty of human connection, gay or straight.

Three different takes on the joys and challenges of the New Rep production.


Thomas Garvey said...

Hey thanks for the shout-out, Art! But you know linking to the Globe doesn't work anymore; I guess I've used up my 10 free articles or whatever, because I can't read Aucoin's review!

Art said...


However, I thought the deal with the "soft" paywall was that you could always read articles that you followed from a hyperlink.

Guess not?

Thomas Garvey said...

Not this time!

Thomas Garvey said...

Of course the cost for a short-term subscription is only a dollar. But how much do I really want to read that review? ;-)

Art said...

I just hope nobody pays a dollar for the Our Town review in the Globe!