The problem with the wonderful productions by Stephen Sondheim is there are too many of them and trying to see them all will be costly. Fortunately the New York native playwright thought about this and came up with a montage of his greatest works in 1992. For those who don’t know the Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist, ‘Putting it Together’ is a crash course on Sondheim’s most popular works. With the narrator (Josie Dapar) as our guide, we observe what transpires between married couples Charley and Vivian (Ken Salzman and Sandra Hakman) and Bryan and Johanna (Bryan Hale and Christina Purcell) at a chi-chi cocktail party overlooking Manhattan. Charley and Viv are the older couple going through a marital crisis after many years in being together. Bryan and Christina haven’t been married as long but there is a crack in their seemingly beautiful marriage.
The tension gets worst when Roxie (Wendy Miklovic) slithers in and uses her femme fatale wiles on the men. The women are obviously not pleased at the shift in attention. Roxie channels Rita Hayworth’s sexpot role Gilda and works her magic on the mesmerized Charley and Bryan. The narrator stays close providing one-line synopsis and of course her opinion on the guests. Draped in the classic little black dress, Viv senses that her marriage is spiraling downward. In the beginning, the sophisticated couple professed their love and devotion in ‘Do I Hear A Waltz?’ from Sondheim's 1965 musical of the same name. After Roxie’s disruptive entrance, Viv works hard to convince Charley they need to get away in ‘Country House’ (Follies, 1987) but that plan falls apart when they realize they over committed themselves to outside activities. At this point, Viv is through and contemplates ‘Could I Leave You’ (Follies) and begin a new life sans Charley.
Meanwhile, Bryan and Johanna are going through their first married squabble. Roxie proudly brags that ‘Sooner or Later: I’m Going to Get My Man’ (Sondheim wrote the song for the 1990 film “Dick Tracy”) Bryan can’t resist. He finally snaps out of his infatuation to serenade Johanna with ‘I Am Unworthy of Your Love’ (Assassins, 1990). Johanna desperately wants to believe Bryan but her understandable hesitancy makes him extremely nervous. What started as ‘Rich and Happy’ (Merrily we Roll Along, 1981) became a dismal Dr. Phil episode with a cliffhanger if the couples will unite.
But of course they will, this is a Sondheim musical where stories, on occasion, end on a good note. Wendy Miklovic is the perfect interruption to these people organized lives. As Roxie, she brings sexy back and rouses everyone’s attention. Roxie likes the attention from the men and relishes making the women miserable. She’s not evil. She’s the woman that all women dread who pull their husband’s attention away. Salzman and Hakman are the ideal New York sophisticated couple. They represent the idealistic New York social sect, polished and poised. They also serve as a future reminder to Johanna and Bryan of a long lasting marriage—minus a dark-haired, green-eyed beauty in the way. Director Bob Hakman effortlessly strategically placed the characters given them enough space to extend their bodies for dramatic effect and dance around freely. Nothing is more satisfying to musical theatergoers then catchy, good-time songs used as s the backdrop of a great story. Sondheim is the master.
Putting It Together: A Musical Review plays at Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 pm. until Saturday, August 4. For tickets call (626) 256-3809 or reserve online at www.sierramadreplayhouse.org
Photo courtesy of Sierra Madre Playhouse
Published on Jul 27, 2007