WINTER PARK– Roy Alan, the artistic director of The Winter Park Playhouse, has compared their production of “Putting It Together” to Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” — almost like a musical version of that iconic 1960s drama.
The comparison isn’t likely to make sense to audiences in the first few minutes of this play, which is essentially a musical review of songs by Broadway legendary composer Stephen Sondheim. At first it doesn’t seem like a story at all, but instead an opportunity for five very talented singers to demonstrate what they can do with great material.
And yet …. even though this production doesn’t have a single line of dialogue to help connect the individual songs into a story arch, it quickly becomes clear that Alan has a very good point.
“Virginia Woolf” was about two couples who spend the night drinking, fighting, and revealing often savagely heartbreaking secrets to one another. In “Putting It Together,” we get something similar.
Set in a Manhattan penthouse, David Thome and Kate O’Neal are the rich, successful and happily married couple who want an opportunity to celebrate their good fortune (in the song “Rich and Happy”), so they invite two friends, played by Jonathan Fadoul and Natalie Cordone, for an evening of drinks and revelry.
Kevin Kelly is the bartender who watches from behind the bar, as the drinks get consumed, the sexual tension increases, there is flirting and chasing, and some hidden passions rise to the surface and come tumbling out into the open.
First Thome begins to take a shine to the lovely Cordone, infuriating his wife. The two women demonstrate their utter contempt for one another (“Every Day a Little Death”) and the other couple have their own stumbles along the way.
In the meantime, Kelly acts as something of a narrator, leading us along through a night when passions soar, tumble down, crash hard, and rise up again.
It’s a clever construct. While connecting 32 of Sondheim’s songs from a variety of his different productions doesn’t offer us the acidic and often brilliant dialogue that Albee provided in his play, the actors are quite good at creating “characters” with distinct personalities — not bad considering that virtually none of the songs was originally intended to blend into one another.
Most of all, though, this production serves as a pretty grand testament to the talent of Sondheim — a kind of “Greatest Hits,” if you will, with songs like “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Marry Me a Little” and “Sooner or Later” that soar in the capable hands of wonderful singers like the five assembled for this production. This show is both a retrospective of Sondheim’s career, and a salute to the Playhouse’s singers and actors as well.
All five keep you absolutely charmed by their singing, and Sondheim’s playbook gives them more than a few opportunities to demonstrate how they can light up a stage. This is a marvelously fun show to watch.
The production, which Sondheim devised with Julia McKenzie and which was directed by Alan, has one final weekend at the theater at 711 Orange Ave. Suite C in Winter Park. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with matiness Thursday through Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18-$38.
For tickets and reservations, call 407-645-0145.
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