Marry Me A Little: Sondheim’s ‘songs that got away’ shine at Walker Farm

David Bonanno and Margo Seibert in Marry Me A Little Photo by Rob Aft

By Shawn Cunningham
© Telegraph Publishing LLC

At first blush, the idea of spending an evening of theater consisting of songs that were cut from eight musicals might give one pause. But in this case it shouldn’t. Marry Me A Little, now being performed on the Weston Theater Company’s Walker Farm stage, is made up of songs and fragments of songs rejected not because they bombed but rather that they didn’t fit in or distracted from their original musicals written by Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim, who died last November at the age of 91, called them “songs that got away.”

Marry Me A Little is neither a play nor a musical but a revue with no dialog and only two characters – Man and Woman. In its original staging, each lives in an apartment – 2E and 3E – in the same building on the same Saturday night and struggle with loneliness and a host of emotions expressed in songs. For the sake of staging, the two characters inhabit the same apartment but don’t interact.

Weston’s version departs from the original in both space and time with the woman living in the apartment in 1974 – according to the headline on the newspaper she brings home – “Nixon Resigns.” And the man lives in the same space about 25 years later – “Gore Eyes White House.” Each enters the apartment from a rainstorm as the play opens and they begin the series of songs – most sung as duets – with music director Yan Li playing the piano on stage.

While many of these songs are excellent, each was cut from a Broadway show for a reason. The raucous, raunchy “That Boy Can Foxtrot,” which ran to seven minutes and brought down the house in previews of Follies, was not meant to carry so much weight. So it was replaced by “I’m Still Here.” “Marry Me A Little” was considered to get ahead of Bobby’s growing self awareness in Company and became one of several songs cut to make way for “Being Alive.”

Weston veterans David Bonanno and Margo Seibert as the man and woman sing emotionally intense, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking lyrics for more than an hour and seem as fresh and energetic at the encore as at the start. The “Two Fairy Tales” is presented in three parts. In his book Finishing The Hat, Sondheim wrote that “Two Fairy Tales” was cut “for that perennial and best, reason: it interrupted the flow of the story.” But here it knits the evening together. Seibert and Bonanno sing about the fairy tale told to each of them by a mother or father about a princess or a knight in a kingdom that is either perfect or wretched, and so on. In the second and third parts, the tales grow closer and — even though Seibert and Bonanno are supposed to be oblivious of each other — in the song’s third part there is a growing chemistry between them.

Meredith Ries’ set seems simple – bed at one end, table in the middle, sofa near the door and the window at the other. But the space has to allow two people to sing, change clothes, eat, drink and even dance around one another without interacting and it’s successful at that.

Director Michael Berresse doesn’t let the production get static, keeping the pair moving purposefully enough that it does not come across as movement for the sake of movement.

Sondheim’s lyrics are dense and clever, dark and funny and they come at you so fast that you might see several performances and find fresh insights each time. Bonanno and Seibert are excellent at interpreting his work.

Marry Me A Little will be presented Tuesday through Saturday evenings with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 30 at Walker Farm, 705 Main Street in Weston. The Weston Theater Company requires that those who attend wear masks and present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test. Tickets are available on line or by calling the box office at 802-824-5288.

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