"Marry Me a Little," currently at the Olney Theatre, proves that some "trunk" songs should be left in the trunk.
Trunk songs are tunes dropped from musicals as they make their way from road productions to Broadway. Some are songs written for musicals that never even reach the stage.
"Marry Me A Little" is comprised of trunk songs written by Stephen Sondheim. Some of the songs heard in this musical were dropped from Sondheim musicals that include "A Little Night Music," "Follies," "Anyone Can Whistle," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and "Company."
It was Craig Lucas and Norman Rene who thought it might be interesting to build a musical on discarded Sondheim tunes. They went to Sondheim, who also thought it was a nice idea.
Permission granted, Lucas and Rene decided to use a set they had already used for "Single Room Occupancy," although they did change it a bit. They decided to fit the stage with two side-by-side apartments, boy in one, girl in the other.
While watching the show, you might think it would have been better to use the Sondheim songs in concert, but the set does add something.
Unfortunately, it doesn't add enough. "Marry Me a Little" rises and falls on the tunes, most of which are rather tuneless. There is one that promises to catch but only for a bar or two, then it is as tuneless as the others.
These songs are, however, brilliant in the Sondheim way. You can watch this show and admire the genius of the man, but you won't necessarily be entertained by his songs, not in this instance.
Lucas and Rene have tried to give these compositions some coherence, a dramatic flow, but since they were written for different shows, they don't really hang together.
They do, however, reflect Sondheim's pessimistic outlook on relationships, commitment, marriage, etc. The composer first voiced these sentiments in "Company," and they are voiced once again in "Marry Me A Little," which often brings "Company" to mind.
The girl and boy who sing these songs do meet, perhaps in fact, more probably in fantasy, but they are not destined to love. Their final duet is "It Wasn't Meant to Happen," another dirge on love and/or consistency.
David Hibbard and Tia Speros are the boy and girl who have
adjoining apartments. Both have superior voices. Both do as much as can be done with these particular songs.
"Marry Me a Little" was first done in New York in 1980, then was revived there in 1987. It's interesting, but that's about the best that can be said for it.
The production will remain at the Olney through Oct. 13. The set, an ingenious one, was done by James Kronzer. Bill Graham Jr. and Jim Petosa co-directed. There is nothing wrong with their work, either. It's the songs that should do it here, and in this case, they do not.
"Marry Me a Little"
** Songs dropped from Stephen Sondheim musicals are fashioned into a very loose form of musical drama.
CAST: Tia Speros, David Hibbard
DIRECTORS: Bill Graham Jr. and Jim Petosa
RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes without intermission