If you totally ignore the absurd and pretentious premise of Putting it Together, which opened last night at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, that it's "a musical odyssey through the career of Stephen Sondheim which explores the relationships and emotions of five guests at a Manhattan cocktail party," and view it as nothing more than five of your favorite entertainers singing lots of very good songs all written by the same guy, you'll have a great time at this show.
And, I suppose, if you're one of those people who see Putting it Together as yet another chance to publicly worship at the shrine of The Great God Sondheim, you'll get something out of it too - but, heaven knows what. Just spare me all the earnest, in-depth analysis of every last lyric and musical phrase. He's damn good. I agree. Let's move on.
(Personally, I can't wait for someone to come out and debunk the Myth of Stephen Sondheim, that his work can only be properly appreciated if approached with an attitude of intellectual reverence. Those of us who enjoy a well-adjusted, real life know him for what he is, a guy who writes clever, pithy lyrics and some of the best, most "hummable" music ever heard on or off the Broadway stage. Sadly, Mr. Sondheim seems to have recently bought in to his own reputation, vaingloriously insisting that Putting it Together be termed a "review" of his work, rather than what it actually is, a "revue" in the grand and wonderfully entertaining tradition of sophisticated amusements concocted to no greater purpose than providing a pleasurable evening at the theatre.)
Carol Burnett is Carol Burnett, nothing more nothing less. With Carol, you know what you're going to get going in, and you're never disappointed. And that's as good a definition of "star quality" as I know.
George Hearn is in excellent voice, and his presence adds the necessary note of depth and resonance to the evening. John Barrowman and Ruthie Henshall provide a surprisingly welcome undercurrent of sex appeal, both in their songs and to the show in general. Bronson Pinchot (or, as he refers to himself in his Playbill bio, "The Artist Formerly Known as Balki") saves the evening on several occasions from becoming just a bit too serious and self-indulgent.
Eric D. Schaeffer's direction and Bob Avian's staging keep the evening moving along at a brisk pace. Jonathan Tunick's orchestrations are superb, as usual, but suffer from an orchestra pushed off stage and amplified to the point of sounding like a cheap FM radio.
To date, this season has produced two absolutely "must see" musical entertainments, Kiss Me, Kate and now Putting it Together. Perhaps Broadway is relearning an old and dependable truth, that sometimes audiences just want to have fun!
Putting it Together Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Eric D. Schaeffer. Musical staging by Bob Avian. Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick. Production design by Bob Crowley. Lighting design by Howard Harrison. Starring Carol Burnett, George Hearn, John Barrowman, Ruthie Henshall, Bronson Pinchot. Kathie Lee Gifford will step in for Carol Burnett on most Tuesday evenings, except on Tuesday 12/21 and Tuesday 12/28, when Ms. Burnett will appear.
Theatre: Barrymore Theatre, 243 West 47th Street New York, NY 10036 (between Broadway & 8th Avenue)
Running time: Approximately 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission.
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 12 and under. Although there is no objectionable content, this is not a show which will be of interest to children.
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM. Added performances Sunday 12/26 at 7:30 PM, Thursday 12/30 at 2 PM, Sunday ½ at 7:30 PM. No performances Tuesdays at 8 PM on 11/23 & 11/30, Friday 12/24, Thursday 12/30 at 8 PM, Friday 12/31, Saturday 1/1 at 2 PM.
Ticket prices: $80, $60 & $40, Wednesday matinee $70, $50 & $30 (Performances 12/25 and 1 /2 $85, $65 & $45, Wednesday Matinee 12/29 $75, $55 & $35)
Tickets online: http://www.telecharge.com/
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge (212) 239-6200, or outside the NY metro area (800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM. (Open until curtain when there is a 7:30 PM performance.)
Tickets by snail mail: Putting it Together, PO Box 998 Times Square Station New York, NY 10108-0998
Tickets by E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org