A man enters, sits on the sofa, takes off his shoes and swigs a beer. A woman shortly follows, carrying an empty cardboard box and a latte, and kneels down next to the sofa. Both sing about fairy tales and conclude that you may as well be dead if you’re spending Saturday night alone.
Marry Me a Little features a selection of unrelated Stephen Sondheim songs written between 1954 and 1973. Conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, it tells the stories of two entirely separate people, named simply Man and Woman, who live just a floor apart. Onstage, their separate apartments become merged into one as they each reminisce and fantasise through song.
Under Hannah Chissick’s direction, however, the current production at the St James Studio is adapted to show a couple who are breaking up (or at least that’s what we think was the case). The constant juxtaposition of scenes — from saccharine love duets where performers interact with each other (which we took to be flashbacks to the couple’s former happiness) to lonely, regretful solos — was confusing to say the least.
In the leading roles, Simon Bailey’s rock/musical theatre-style vocals conflict with Laura Pitt-Pulford’s distinctly operatic sounds. Both have strong individual voices, but together they don’t quite work.
Considering how difficult it is to follow the narrative (not helped by poor sightlines for anyone not in the front row) and the opposing vocal styles, it’s hard to enjoy Sondheim’s music. It wasn’t until the last song, It Wasn’t Meant to Happen, that we finally felt engaged.
Marry Me a Little is at the St James Studio (part of the St James Theatre) until 10 August.
Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review the performance.