Brighton Fringe 2012
Sussex Musical Theatre Society presents this tribute to the great musical theatre composer, Stephen Sondheim, featuring hits from some of his greatest shows including ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Into the Woods’ and ‘Company’.
A real treat for Sondheim – or any – Broadway musical lovers.
Putting it Together is a clever compilation of 28 Sondheim songs joined together to make a continuous story of two couples whose relationships develop during a cocktail party – aided by the ministrations of a “mischievous yet charming” butler. The “older” couple try to keep up appearances, but their relationship is faltering, whereas the young couple look for insights which will lead to a happy resolution. Whoever compiled this show selected lots of comedy numbers with lots of variety so that the angst and soul searching that Sondheim is often accused of was well balanced with charming light hearted tunes like “Do I hear a Waltz” or wonderful comedy duets like “There’s Always a Woman”, or even the truly romantic “Unworthy of your love” which is still haunting me.
It’s hard to believe that this excellent, swift- moving show was not in some West End venue, performed by experienced singer-actors. But these talented youngsters were all members of the Sussex University Musical Society (known as SMuTS)! Only the director Duncan Drury, and choreographer Sarah Gillett, had already graduated, and they were backed up by a four piece band from the music students, ably led by Tom Reade, on the piano. There was a slight problem sometimes the band, mainly the amplified piano, slightly drowning some of the quieter words of the songs in the first half, but when this was pointed out it was rectified most efficiently in the second half. Inevitably shows suffer from the lack of technical rehearsal time in the Fringe and there can often by problems of audibility in a different venue when the Director is a most active part of the cast and is therefore not in a position to monitor. Similarly the use of the small stage, letting the actors enter from the audience and using a small part of the space in front of the stage worked well and the steep uneven steps seemed to present little difficulties to these agile youngsters, but sometimes the offstage table lighting was hit or miss for actors standing there. Otherwise there was a tremendously high standard o finventiveness, style, and presentation.
Carole Cassidy as the younger woman is lovely to look at, sings well and flirts with conviction. Attractive Talia Cohen as the wife, whose singing and movement were also splendid had an exceptionall gift for comedy, with a face that could show every nuance of love, hurt, anger, bitchiness or whatever she chose, split second timing, and the appearance of spontaneity that showed a singing actress to watch. She was memorable in the send-up verse of “Lovely”, the delightful duet “Everybody ought to have a maid”, partnered well with Jacob Jackson and the breath takingly hilarious Getting Married Today, but was also riveting simply sitting at the table looking pensive. Jacob was an admirable butler, injecting vitality and sparkle into all that he did but raising the roof with his solo in the second half – was it called Good Thing Going? I would love to have the artiste’s credit with each number. I was enjoying myself too much to take notes. And the two other guys, the Director and John Shaffer were more than able backing to the girls, with pleasant voices and good characterization. The very complex ensemble numbers were beautifully harmonized and sung.
most enjoyable show I could happily see again.