Marry Me a Little: Review Roundup

Lauren Molina
and Jason Tam

The Keen Company has received mixed reviews for its first-ever musical production, a “revisal” of the 1980 one-act Marry Me a Little, which was last revived Off-Broadway in 1987. The creative team includes Craig Lucas and Norman Rene (book), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics, music), Jonathan Silverstein (direction), John Bell (musical direction), Dan Knechtges (choreography), Steven C. Kemp (sets), Jennifer Paar (costumes), Josh Bradford (lights), and Colin Whitely (sound). The cast of this two-hander includes Jason Tam (Him) and Lauren Molina (Her) with John Bell (piano).

Joe Dziemianowicz (N.Y. Daily News): 3 out of 5 stars. What made the Marry Me motor purr the first time around was that the Sondheim songs threading it together were unknown, since most had been cut from his early shows. Three decades later, the music is familiar and the element of surprise is gone. The exception: “Rainbows,” the newest number, a pretty and incisive song cut from an unmade movie of Into the Woods. Performing alone and together, Tam and Molina, who also plays cello, are game and appealing – no more, no less. Her teary take on the title song impressed, as did his rousing “Happily Ever After.” They blended sweetly on the wistful “So Many People.” But hearing songs sung recital-style … grew tiresome.

Andy Propst (Theater Mania): Silverstein’s sometimes overly fussy production too often shifts into a less concrete and more dreamlike reality. At those moments, audiences may find themselves struggling to understand why Him and Her have broken into songs like “Your Eyes Are Blue” … or “Rainbows.” … What ultimately pulls theatergoers through these missteps are Molina and Tam’s consistently winning performances. … When Molina and Tam nail their numbers – such as Tam’s searing delivery of “Happily Ever After” and Molina’s sultry rendition of The Girls of Summer – there’s an unmistakable electricity in the air. Equally wonderfully, when the actors’ voices combine … the effect can be concurrently sweet and poignant, much like the revue itself.

David Rooney (N.Y. Times): Mr. Silverstein’s update is a wee bit obvious in its incorporation of contemporary gadgetry to make the material resonate in our age of hyper-connected isolation. But it nonetheless retains a pleasing retro flavor and is a model from which many later songbook confections could learn a thing or two. … Both actors bring emotional transparency to their roles, providing a quietly affecting counterpoint to the guarded ambivalence inherent in many of Mr. Sondheim’s lyrics. … No living Broadway composer’s gifts have been more celebrated than Mr. Sondheim’s. But it’s a testament to his skills that the discards and remnants from which this show was stitched are more beguiling than so much of what passes for contemporary musical theater.

Marilyn Stasio (Variety): It takes great determination and no little effort to screw up Marry Me a Little. … Jonathan Silverstein manages to make some spectacularly bad choices – starting with the decision to hook up these sensitive souls to social networking websites. … Instead of allowing these happy/unhappy youngsters to explore their conflicted feelings through their assigned songs, Silverstein encourages them to take their cues from their laptops and smartphones. … But at the end of the show, when this lonely boy and girl are finally allowed to meet, Tam and Molina seize the moment and make us melt with “Rainbows.” … Thankfully, we don’t have to watch them going back to their laptops and smartphones.

Terry Teachout (Wall St. Journal): The world has changed greatly since 1980, of course, and Jonathan Silverstein, the director of this revival, has changed Marry Me a Little accordingly. In addition to moving the action of the show into the age of smartphones and sexting, he’s toyed with the score, dropping three songs and adding four others, in all cases to excellent effect. … He’s also added a new twist to the end of Marry Me a Little. Don’t ask – you’ll want to be surprised – but it’s neat and right. Ms. Molina and Mr. Tam are a bit short on mutual chemistry, and they also need to be a lot more careful about projecting their soft singing. … Those aren’t exactly quibbles, but they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying a show that’s as short, smart and sweet as Marry Me a Little.

Robert Windeler (Back Stage): The two singers here are a bit mismatched. Lauren Molina, Her, has a stronger voice and more forceful personality. Jason Tam, Him, dances very well in two fantasy sequences but is more tentative in his vocal delivery – until he knocks “Happily Ever After” (Company) out of the park. … Jonathan Silverstein glibly moves his cast of two around their separate but shared flats … but in attempting to update a timeless piece, he has removed some of its subtle charm. … And those mutual fantasy dances from choreographer Dan Knechtges feature such tactile intimacy as to break down the basic conceit. If you’ve never seen Marry Me a Little you may enjoy the show; the rest of us have our memories. Either way, unsung Sondheim is better than most composers’ greatest hits. Critic’s Score: B-

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