Putting It Together | Theatre Review
The Lyric • Show runs until 19 December ’15
By definition, fringe theatre is an experimental method of performing in which the audience are entirely engaged in the piece and the intimacy between the actors and the audience heightened by the use of a smaller performance space. Blunt Fringe’s performance of Putting It Together, a musical revue featuring musical scores from Stephen Sondheim, achieved just that. Performed in the Haughton Studio in the Lyric Theatre the audience were seated around the actors in close proximity that allowed for a truly immersive experience from the beginning. It was an interesting concept, for such an epic musical revue to be contained to a small performance space and yet this contrast worked. Without it, the heart of the performance and depth of the lyrics may have been lost. Stripping back the production to a minimalist space and set allowed the audience to truly appreciate the meaning of the songs and the sheer musical talent of the actors to shine through.
With this performance, the lines of genre were blurred in that at times it felt as though we were simultaneously watching a musical, concert and play and with little to no dialogue, it is certainly a piece for those more musically minded. The featured songs that were handpicked from Sondheim’s repertoire, highlighted some of his more known musicals such as ‘Sweeny Todd’ to ‘Into the Woods’ to the lesser known ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ and ‘Anyone can whistle’. A far cry from the family friendly favourites such as ‘Oliver’ or ‘Annie’, Sondheim’s lyrics are anything but two dimensional and portray a witty and at times dark description of the themes he writes about and it is this depth of meaning that has earned him the accolade of the Shakespeare of musical theatre. Although no plot, there was an overruling theme of the human condition throughout, portrayed by a middle aged couple contrasted to a younger couple and the complexities that come with with both relationships.
Led by a stellar cast, it is fair to say that their performance would not have been out of place on the Broadway stage that the revue first originated from. Certainly no mean feat to deliver a fast paced, almost two hour long musical revue and yet they managed to without a single note out of tune or step out of place. As polished and professional each of the actors were individually, the real magic happened as an ensemble and the undeniable chemistry between the cast led to a believable performance. Although little character context, the actors still managed to covey all the necessary emotions through the music and were able to give the depth of the lyrics justice. Having no smoke and mirrors to hide behind given the small performance space, only emphasised their flawless vocals. Due to the lack of story and little dialogue, it would not be an unforgiving thing to lose focus in this piece, however, the numbers ranged from the fast paced and energetic to the slow and impassioned, leaving little room for audiences to lose interest.
Blunt Theatre’s truly excellent ensemble cast captured the true essence of everything a musical should be bar the dialogue. For musical lovers, especially those familiar with musical genius Sondheim, it is a as a must-see but even if you aren’t the most versed in his work, it will still leave you wanting to burst into song and jazz hand your way out of the theatre.