Friday, 24 January 2014

'Putting It Together' at the St James Theatre

This evening we went to see the Stephen Sondheim review, ''Putting It Together'. a collection of his songs from various musicals loosely based around two couples at a cocktail party. We have David Bedella and Janie Dee as the older married couple and Caroline Sheen and David Humbley as the young couple, all narrated and kept moving on by Daniel Crossley who plays various roles. The six-piece band behind them made a nice noise to accompany the singing.

Songs are plucked from various Sondheim musicals up to the early '90s when he devised the show along with Julia McKenzie. We are given songs wrenched out of the context of the musical they were written for and plugged into the new context of the cocktail party and some seem to work better than others. We get songs from 'Sunday In the Park With George', 'Sweeney Todd', 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum', 'Into The Woods', 'Company', 'Follies' and more.

We have the jaded older couple and the younger all singing about love and life and, occasionally, each other. The standout for me was Janie Dee who seemed to get all the best songs and the most confident characterisation with songs like 'Ladies Who Lunch' and 'Not Getting Married'. I also thought David Bedella was on top form for his sinister 'Hello Little Girl' as the predatory older man (i.e. the wolf from 'Into The Woods'). I also liked the manic 'Buddy's Blues' by Daniel Crossley.

I'm sure Sondheim followers will be able to dissect the production far better than me but I enjoyed it and the cast of five singers. I enjoyed it and am pleased I've seen it. It's only on for a short run so see it if you can.

On a separate note, I think I have to take issue with Mr Sondheim's claim that 'art isn't easy' in the song that opens the show, 'Putting It Together'. Today I spent my travelling time listening to Amanda Palmer who, in her 'Ukelele Anthem' sings, 'stop pretending that art is hard'. Who is right?

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