Putting It Together was performed at the G Live Studio, Guildford.
The rarely-seen Sondheim revue Putting It Together, a veritable orgy of familiar and less familiar songs from the great man’s rich repertoire worked into an admittedly pretty flimsy storyline, made a welcome return with a classy cast of five at Guildford.
First performed at the Old Fire Station Theatre in Oxford in 1992 as a follow-up to Side By Side By Sondheim, and seen on Broadway in 1999 with a cast that featured Carol Burnett, George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall and John Barrowman, this latest revival was a real curate’s egg of a show that didn’t really take off until the second half.
The six-strong band under MD and pianist Alex Parker initially overpowered even the mighty talent of Janie Dee and made the gentle tenor of Damian Humbley, fresh from his West End triumph in Merrily We Roll Along, hard to decipher even from my uncomfortable plastic chair just a few yards away.
Either the acoustics at the G Live Studio are not great, or the balance between musicians and unamplified singers was not as it should have been, although they were never going to drown the deep, rich tones of David Bedella, who led the Menier cast in Sondheim’s Road Show a couple of years back. He has a voice you wouldn’t miss in the rush hour at Piccadilly Circus, and either the rest of the cast upped their game after the interval or director Alastair Knights had a quiet word with the band, but things improved dramatically.
With 30-plus Sondheim songs drawn from iconic shows like Follies, A Little Night Music, Company, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods among others, this was always going to be a musically pleasing couple of hours and there were some fine moments.
Dee and the crystal-clear Caroline Sheen played a blinder with ’There’s Always a Woman’ (from Anyone Can Whistle) in Act II, while Daniel Crossley’s showstopping ‘Buddy’s Blues’ (Follies) deservedly won plenty of laughs. Bedella’s moving ‘Good Thing Going’ (Merrily) was also matched by Humbley’s simple but effective ‘Marry Me a Little’ (from Company).
Act I took time to catch fire but it is impossible to resist such a consummate artist as the versatile Dee, who moves as beautifully as she acts and acts as beautifully as she sings, and ‘Everybody Ought to Have A Maid’ (from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum), where she had a likeable foil in Crossley, and ‘Country House’, in which she crossed swords with the excellent Bedella, set us up for the post-interval delights of her cutting ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ and ‘Getting Married Today’, which found her extracting every ounce of humour from Sondheim’s delicious words.
Sadly, the thin piece of paper (thankfully free) which passed for a programme listed the songs but not the shows they came from, which must have sent all but the most hardened Sondheim groupies home scratching their heads.
A good evening but not quite enough magic.