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Thursday 30 January 2014

Putting it Together, Musical Review by Stephen Sondheim, St. James Theatre, London 9* out of 10

Putting It Together is a musical review consisting of songs taken from musicals by Stephen Sondheim and organised around the theme of love relationships among sophisticated urban dwellers at different stages of their lives. The songs run the gamut from hopeful anticipation to painful break-up with a lot joy and crisis in between.

Sondheim’s lyrics are masterful case studies in social psychology delivered in a firework of insight, wit and deep emotional intelligence. As his music serves to make the great lyrics even more effective, it doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. But he has written some great tunes, too.

It is hard to believe that we had to wait more than 20 years for the London premiere of this gem. Alex Parker’s production matches the quality of the lyrics with the right level of energy and sophistication from an outstanding cast consisting of David Bedella, Daniel Crossley, Janie Dee, Damian Humbley and Caroline Sheen. Jointly and severally the actors get to show the range of interpretation they are capable of – and very capable they are, too. On the evening I saw the show, the rapport with the audience was evident and the energy on stage radiated back only to be picked again by actors and orchestra. Even in such a high quality ensemble, award-winning Janie Dee stands out by the sheer charisma of her performance. Body language and facial expression to match the emotions portrayed was magnetic. I have seen some of the numbers Dee performs here done by show business greats like Patti LuPone and Carol Burnett - but nobody did it better.  

Putting It Together is a thoroughly satisfying and uplifting experience for a delighted London audience, who deserve an extended West End run for this production which, unfortunately for those who do not have tickets is now almost completely sold out for the remainder of its short run.


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