A little thing like a global pandemic didn't stop the Barn Theatre going from strength to strength this year. They became the unlikely heroes of the first lockdown with their fantastic The Barn Presents series, hosted a series of performances both indoors and outdoors in line with government guidelines and most recently took the world by storm with their online production of What A Carve Up! They are now back to save us from our theatre drought with a filmed version of their recent production Marry Me A Little.
Playing a limited season at the theatre in Cirencester, Marry Me A Little had its run cut tragically short due to the second lockdown. Luckily, a version of the production was filmed so it can be enjoyed by the masses. The show is a revue of songs written by the legendary Stephen Sondheim. The majority of numbers were cut from the final productions but other songs from his show Saturday Night and the title track Marry Me A Little from Company also feature in the production. All the songs present carry that undisputed Sondheim wit and charm.
Marry Me A Little is about two ex-lovers who spend a Saturday night alone in their separate apartments in New York City. Throughout a very speedy hour, we watch them explore their secret fantasies and desires as well as take a look at their history together. The stage is brilliantly split in half to showcase each of their apartments, joining in the middle to create a fantastic appearance.
While this revue was originally staged in 1980, it is brought bang up to date with the genius use of social media and technology, giving you an insight into the pairs complicated relationship. While the shows namesake Company updated the show with modern references, Marry Me A Little follows suit with references to Tinder among the methods used to breathe new life and meaning into the show.
The lovers are played by Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker - two of the most incredible talents the West End has to offer with credits as diverse as Les Miserables, Barnum and even the Elton John movie Rocketman. Their voices are incomparable with Houchen's gorgeous tone matching Schoenmaker's incredible range perfectly. Individually and together, they encapsulate their conflicted emotions and desires in a way that keeps you gripped from the opening moment.
Giving these two immense talents a Sondheim songbook to play with was always going to be a recipe for success. They relish in the opportunity with Schoenmaker's 'There Won't Be Trumpets' (cut from Anyone Can Whistle) a particular highlight. Houchen's 'Happily Ever After' reworks some of the famous lyrics from Being Alive changing the tone to what is one of Sondheim's most iconic songs. As real life friends, the pairs chemistry shines through the screen to give a level of authenticity to the affair.
Overall, this is another triumph from The Barn Theatre. Bringing Sondheim up to date is always a risky move but this works perfectly. With flawless casting, beautiful vocals and genius staging, this is a brilliant way to spend an hour on a cold and boring November evening. My only wish is that this revue could be fully fleshed out to give us more insight into the couple - if only so we could spend longer in their company. While it may not give us the happily ever after Rob Houchen's "Man" sings about, it still worms its way into your heart even if the end isn't as satisfying as you would hope.
Even though it was first performed 40 years ago, there is nothing dated about this revue which The Barn Theatre bring bang up to date. After all, a show about being trapped indoors and bored on a Saturday night is as relatable for 2020 as it gets.
Marry Me A Little is available to stream from Thursday 19th - Sunday 22nd November at 7.30pm each evening. Purchase your ticket at https://barntheatre.org.uk/all-venues