Everywhere you look there seems to be Sondheim as his work continues to triumph across London. Up north this autumn, the Hope Mill Theatre
Featuring songs from Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Into The Woods, Follies and more, we meet the five characters at a cocktail party in the centre of Manhattan. Dressed to the nines, the story unravels to delve into the lives of two couples. With the use of a narrator played by Andrew Gallo who sets the scene and carries the story, he uses excellent wit to draw the audience in.
Although it’s a revue and the storyline is thin, the individual performances are remarkable as the actors bring humour and emotion to each number. As Sondheim said, ‘art isn’t easy’, but he sure makes it look easy with his enthralling songwriting. Sondheim’s best feature is his ability to write real, authentic songs about humanity. Capturing the genuine emotion we face through the life, each song feels entirely relevant. With the beautiful intimacy of the Hope Mill Theatre, it allows the audience to really connect and resonate with each song. You’d be hard pressed to watch this performance and not relate to any of the stories as they sing about love, pain, heartbreak and conflict.
Andrew Gallo oozes charisma as he opens the show with comedic flair, setting the scene and introducing us to the characters at the party giving us tremendous instructions to the audience about how to behave at the theatre. With festive décor and atmospheric lighting, it’s a cosy production that draws you in to two hours of glorious entertainment.
Performing Sondheim’s most challenging numbers such as Getting Married Today and Ladies Who Lunch, Lauren James Ray brings superb characterisation and sublime vocals to a multitude of show-stopping numbers. Gavin James showcases mesmeric vocals particularly in his duet with Alex Cardall Pretty Women, which is delicately crafted to create a tender moment in the show. Simbi Akande portrays excellent musicality and radiant stage presence as the younger woman. However, it’s the emotionally charged performance of Marry Me A Little from Alex Cardall that steals the show. With rich vocals Cardall proves the beauty of Sondheim through his incredibly moving and entirely consuming performance.
The highlights of this production are the ensemble numbers such as their captivating rendition of Being Alive where their voices blend so exquisitely that you wish they did more. It’s a musical revue that gives us a glimpse into what the Hope Mill Theatre can do with Sondheim, and the future is looking bright.
Putting It Together celebrates why Sondheim is such a theatrical icon with the way he taps into universal themes that are still so relevant today. This festive production is a jubilant night out at the theatre that will leave you falling in love with Sondheim either for the first time, or all over again.
On at the Hope Mill Theatre until the 29th of November, tickets and information can be found online here.