John Bowles is a respected tv presenter, theatre and concert performer.
Janie Dee steals the show in a musical revue of Stephen Sondheim songs.
‘Putting It Together’
Starring: Janie Dee, David Bedella, Daniel Crossley, Damien Humbley & Caroline Sheen
Director: Alastair Knights, Choreographer: Matthew Rowland, Musical Director Theo Jamieson
‘Putting It Together’ has no story to speak of. It takes place in a New York cocktail party, and in this production playing until February 1st at the wonderful St James Theatre, two couples and a narrator tangle with a great variety of Sondheim tunes. Each song becomes like an individual vignette taking us through a wide variety of personal situations and dilemmas.
The cast are all very good. It was a joy to see such a tremendous amount of experience on show in such an intimate environment. But Janie Dee who shone, gave the audience a master class in how to perform this material in revue. In a conventional ‘music theatre’ performance the actors take on roles, wearing costumes, and telling the story through the material given. In this type of ‘revue’ the actors are appearing as ‘themselves’, with no real character to speak of, no costume, but still touching on story points and dramatic moments through the material. It requires an extra ingredient to the standard ‘theatre gig’; a little bit of star quality, a little bit of one’s self and a twinkle in the eye also helps.
Janie Dee and Daniel Crossley understand the difference. And the finale of act one is a case in point. Dee presents a very dramatic interpretation of ‘Would I Leave You’ from Follies. Her character plants the question directly to her stage partner, but the audience is left in no doubt that it is Dee, as she struts off into the wings, who knows what this song is about… as well as the character she is playing in that moment. Practically all of her songs (‘The Ladies Who Lunch’, ‘Not Getting Married Today’) are highlights; including a very funny version of ‘Everybody Ought To Have A Maid’ which she performs with Daniel Crossley.
Sitting in the final preview of ‘Putting It Together’ I was constantly reminded of what a towering figure Mr Sondheim is in the theatre world. Every melody interesting, every lyric meticulous and every song with real purpose. The six piece band played well, given their small size, and the production looked like it was made for the St James Theatre stage. Special mention must go to Alastair Knights (director) and Matthew Roland (choreographer) for staging the production in such an economical and effective way.
I have always wanted to see a production of ‘Putting It Together’, having enjoyed ‘Side By Side By Sondheim’ some years ago. This production does not disappoint and Janie Dee’s performance is well worth the ticket price alone. What a gem she is.
Visit the St James Theatre website HERE
Footnote: Apparently, ‘Putting It together’ has never before been staged in London. The original, starring Dian Rigg, was for only 24 performances at The Old Fire Station Theatre, in Oxford in 1992!!!!!