Marry Me a Little
Songs by Stephen Sondheim, Conceived and Developed by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, Directed and Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins, Musical Direction by David McGrory; Erik Diaz, Scenic Designer; Rafael Jaen, Costume Designer; Christopher Ostrom, Lighting Designer; David Reiffel, Sound Designer; Joe Stalone, Properties Designer; Meghan Fisher, Production Stage Manager
CAST (in alphabetical order): Aimee Doherty (Woman 2), Brad Daniel Peloquin (Man 2), Erica Spyres (Woman 1), Phil Tayler (Man 1); Musicians: Todd C. Gordon (Piano One), David McGrory (Piano Two)
Performances through January 27 at New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA; Box Office 617-923-8487 or www.newrep.org
Stephen Sondheim rejects. That is the concept and content of Marry Me a Little, an easy to take musical revue at New Repertory Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown. By definition, not all of the songs are keepers, having been cut from well-known Sondheim shows or derived from never-produced works, but they are all worth hearing as sung by the talented quartet of Aimee Doherty, Brad Daniel Peloquin, Erica Spyres, and Phil Tayler. Director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins overlays a warm, gentle touch to a collection of decidedly bittersweet tunes, showing empathy with these lonely New York singles in their isolation and fear of commitment.
Scenic Designer Erik Diaz gives the slim characterizations a boost with his two-story set, showing four small apartments in a dollhouse-like configuration. Man 1 (Tayler) and Woman 1 (Spyres) share a common wall on the first floor, and Man 2 (Peloquin) and Woman 2 (Doherty) live across the hall from each other upstairs. The small space for skateboard-toting Man 1 is a tiny crash pad with clothes strewn about, a mattress on the floor, and a mini-fridge filled with St. Pauli Girl, a world away from the glass and chrome-decorated contemporary unit for urbane Man 2. A brass bed with polka dot sheets and a Teddy bear is the focal point in Woman 1's studio, as compared to Woman 2's fully-stocked kitchen and wine rack on the upper level.
Robbins and her cast are not hampered by the lack of a book as Sondheim's lyrics provide their own narrative and all of the singers convincingly act the stories inherent in their songs. Despite their eclectic outward appearances - from Doherty's jaded and disappointed dame to the sunnier, spirited Spyres, and from Peloquin's sexual preference-questioning neatnik to Tayler's energetic romantic - they share a common longing for connection and maintain the hope that either they'll find it someday, or maybe they're better off without it.
Musical Director David McGrory and New Rep regular Todd C. Gordon share accompaniment duties, flanking the stage on dual upright pianos. On a number of selections, Spyres complements their sound and adds a layer of feeling with her plaintive violin-playing. However, the vocalists bear most of the responsibility for conveying the sentiments in Sondheim's laden songs and bring it every time. Doherty finds the right mix of sexy and comic antics in "Uptown/Downtown," and powerfully conjures up the brass of distant horns in "There Won't Be Trumpets," cut from 1964's short-lived Anyone Can Whistle. Peloquin's lilting tenor evokes the loneliness of a Saturday night with a takeout dinner and the resignation as a romance ends ("It Wasn't Meant to Happen" - Follies). Spyres is equally convincing as a believer in "Two Fairy Tales" and as one of the sultry "Girls of Summer," wrapping her crystalline soprano voice around the maestro's challenging notes. Tayler's emotional range is impressive as he embraces the beer-swigging athleticism and the sweetly vulnerable romantic side of his character.