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Marry Me a Little

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In the early 1980’s, just before Craig Lucas transitioned from performer to playwright, he approached Stephen Sondheim about using some of the composer’s trunk songs in a new theatrical context. The result was Marry Me a Little. With his director, Norman Rene, Lucas fashioned a wisp of a concept to create a loose structure for the songs. A Man and a Woman spend a Saturday night alone in their respective apartments in the same building, 2C & 3C. The small cast, the intimate setting, and the fact that the script is dialog-free, allowing great flexibility in interpretation, meant that the show was immediately popular. Then, of course, there are the songs.

But much has changed since the original production of Marry Me a Little. The songs, unheard by most at that point, have been recorded numerous times over the years. Sondheim’s unproduced first show, Saturday Night, has seen productions. Cut songs “Marry Me a Little” and “There Won’t Be Trumpets” have each been replaced in their respective shows. And a number of other Sondheim revues, most famously Putting It Together, have “borrowed” Lucas and Rene’s idea to create their own newly minted Sondheim shows. But Marry Me a Little is the granddaddy of those other shows and deserves respect.

Producer/Director Janet Miller is respectful in her production for the Hollywood Fringe. And the show, with its modest physical requirements, fits perfectly within the Fringe concept. Miller cleverly stages the beginning of the show to demonstrate that, despite the fact that both characters share the set simultaneously, they remain in their separate rooms. Miller allows those boundaries to blur towards the middle of the action, but they return by the end, when the characters are most definitely alone in their beds. While this is not a dance piece, Miller neatly adds more true choreography than any production I’ve seen.

The density of Sondheim’s lyrics has often caused directors to favor verbal dexterity over great singing. By casting legit singers, Jessie Withers and David Laffey in the roles, Miller guarantees that musical values are as vital as those all-important lyrics. This, of course, means that the songs cut from the operetta-like A Little Night Music are given their vocal due. But Withers and Laffey are compelling and effective throughout and, as most of the songs are both rangy and vocally challenging, it is great to hear them sung without strain. Laffey is particularly moving in his rendition of “Multitudes of Amys,” a song not in the original production. And, though the tone of the show is mostly melancholic, Withers has a blast with double entendres and playfully elongating her “f’s” in “Can that Boys Foxtrot!”

Musical Director Corey Hirsch leads a nimble reading of the score while always accompanying the singers with sensitivity.

Lillian Theatre   June 4 – June 28, 2015    http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2234

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.