Review: Putting it Together by Stephen Sondheim at Sir John Mills, Ipswich, until Saturday.

What a swell party this is. Gallery Players, the undoubted regional maestros of his work, have taken this Sondheim songfest and put their own special indelible mark on it.

It is a slick review entirely without dialogue that relies on the ability of the actors to tell a completely new story simply through the lyrics of cleverly chosen numbers from the composer’s huge collection of shows.

We join a ritzy party in a Manhattan apartment, concentrating on a middle-aged man and woman with a marriage hitting problems and a younger couple in search of love but full of doubts and hang-ups. There’s also a kind of master of ceremonies who, with just a word, phrase or number here and there, jollies the whole thing along.

And the brilliance of the show is that the songs are chosen with such care that we are never in doubt what is going on, the moods, the passions, the romance and the regrets are laid brilliantly bare as one lovely melody follows another backed by Joe Cleary’s cracking piano playing.

This means that each song has to be acted as well as sung and Sondheim aficionados will know that almost every piece of his work is often a tricky vocal challenge on its own. So the success of this team in delivering 30 numbers that had the first night audience in raptures is a triumph that some professional companies might envy.

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What’s most important is that we are taken on a journey of love and lust, anger and remorse, fear and hope, without a line of script and moved by it. But it never takes itself too seriously for too long and we are made to smile and laugh a lot.

Mike Cook is right on cue as the man who gently connects the story together and Stephanie Brown and Paul Stone are the younger couple. She has a lot fun with numbers like Lovely and More and his Marry Me a Little is a delight.

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James Hayward’s a strong older man, relishing his Hello Little Girl and the exuberant Buddy’s Blues but the toughest task falls to his wife, Shelley Clempson. who is just great in the sad Every Day a Little Death and the building anger of Could I Leave You? And you will go a long way to hear the very funny tongue-twisting Getting Married Today sung any better.


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