THEATER REVIEW: “Marry Me A Little” at the Diversionary

If your name is Stephen Sondheim, you can even sell your outtakes.

The proof: “Marry Me A Little,” the title of both a song cut from “Company” and a revue of 18 Sondheim songs that all suffered the same fate.

James Vásquez directs this odd duck of a show, which plays through Sept. 18 at Diversionary Theatre. Written for a man and a woman, the show premiered in 1980 with Craig Lucas and Suzanne Henry and has since been presented also as a two-hander for men and for women. Diversionary offers all three possibilities, so you can pick your poison. This review is based on both single-gender pairings.

Here’s the count on the songs: “Follies” (6), “A Little Night Music” and “Saturday Night” (3 each), “Company” (2), and one each from “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” “The Girls Of Summer,” “Anyone Can Whistle” and the never-produced “The Last Resorts.”

Some of the songs – notably “All Things Bright And Beautiful” (“Follies”) and “Silly People” (“A Little Night Music”) are in my opinion no loss: “Bright” because it doesn’t say much and “Silly” because even after hearing it twice, I’m not sure what it’s about. “Forum” didn’t suffer much from the loss of “Your Eyes Are Blue” either.

On the other end of the spectrum is the blockbuster, Cole Porteresque “Can That Boy (Girl) Foxtrot!” Cut from “Follies,” the dance step is a euphemism for sex and this song is a hoot done by either gender. The sparkling vocal interpretations of Mitzi Michaels and Stewart Calhoun are greatly enhanced by Vásquez’s clever staging and choreography.

Speaking of sex, there’s the peculiar “Bang!” (“A Little Night Music”), which uses war imagery but (at least in Vásquez’s version) also a bed and suggestive gestures for visual confirmation of its real subject.

Two other “Follies” songs – “Uptown, Downtown” (a showy number about class) and the bluesy “It Wasn’t Meant To Happen” could find homes on the pop music circuit.

Critics saw the women’s version (with Sarah Errington and Mitzi Michaels) first, followed by Stewart Calhoun and Jacob Caltrider. All are accomplished performers with fine voices. I took particular delight in Michaels’ rich mezzo voice. All in all, I found the men’s version stronger, mainly because lyrics are paramount with Sondheim, and men’s voices are easier to understand. That’s just a fact of nature.

Don’t look for a plot or dramatic structure here. Though the songs are arranged in a vaguely conceivable chronological order, the characters are unknown and dramatic logic missing. It’s a pity audiences don’t get the written information provided to critics, which occasionally gets down and dirty with the reasons each song was cut.

Vásquez, musical director/accompanist Tony Houck aid the singers in making this well-performed, quirky little revue a pleasure for those who just can’t get enough Sondheim.

The details

“Marry Me a Little” plays through Sept. 29 at Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., University Heights.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm; Sept. 4, 16 and 23 at 8 pm; Sept. 21 at 3, 5:30 and 8 pm.

Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.

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