Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Reviewed by Nikki Cotter
While the West End enjoys a triumphant Sondheim revival in the form of Marianne Elliot’s gender-swap Company, us Northerners can also delight in a Sondheim sensation as Hope Mill Theatre, Aria Entertainment & Neil Eckersley bring us a fabulous festive treat with the cleverly constructed and enormously entertaining Putting It Together.
Set at a festive cocktail party in a Manhattan loft apartment, two couples socialise together while Andrew Gallo acting as narrator observes their interactions & anticipates their unraveling with a knowledgable word to the audience as the story develops.
The very first scene, Invocations and Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs clearly lays this out as a night of pure enjoyment, so sit back, relax & let the remarkable talent of this fine cast paired with the music and lyrics of the mighty Stephen Sondheim entertain you.
The construction of this show taking numbers from several different productions is absolute genius, as songs we know and love are given new meaning while some of the lesser known tracks are given a platform to be heard.
As the lives of the characters mixed with their human complexities intertwine songs are used to great effect to portray the emotional longing of each character.
Hello Little Girl from Into The Woods is given a whole new twist as Gavin Jones lusts after Simbi Akande in a daring attempt at seduction while Pretty Women (also from Sweeny Todd) becomes a gentle, tender and touching love song, delivered beautifully by Alex Cardall and Gavin James.
Described as a ‘musical review’ created to showcase Sondheim’s work the plot is never intended to thicken much but this really feels unimportant when you have the opportunity to sit and listen to five stunning actors at the absolute top of their game deliver the most brilliant, beautiful lyrics accompanied by sublime music played on-stage by the enormously talented Michael Webborn.
The pace is fast & once we start we gallop through, each piece thrilling in equal measure. Bronagh Lagan’s confident direction paired with William Whelton’s impressive choreography drives the piece from start to finish; Bang from A Little Night Music performed by Andrew Gallo, Simbi Akande and Alex Cardall perfectly illustrating this, punchy and powerful.
Special mention must go to Lauren James Ray whose delivery of Getting Married Today absolutely brings the house down, impressive throughout her wit and acting are both superb, she is a joy to watch.
Every member of this small cast delivers and then some as they work their way through each musical number; each track feels real, authentic and is honestly delivered. Sondheim’s lyrics so slick and witty ensuring we travel each emotional step with the characters.
Putting It Together is the festive treat you didn’t quite realise you needed but once you’ve sat and enjoyed a sublime evening in the company of this stellar cast you’ll be without doubt wanting to come back for more.
Joyfully entertaining from start to finish.
Putting It Together is on at Hope Mill Theatre until Saturday 24th November tickets available here.