Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Stylish Production of Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together
I first saw this show at the Manhattan Theatre Club in the spring of 1993 with Julie Andrews. At that time I thought it was a disjointed affair. The five person piece was reworked in 1998 and premiered at the Mark Taper Theatre in Los Angeles. It was a more classy and solid review with Carol Burnett, John Barrowman, Susan Egan, John McCook and Bronson Pinchot. It later went to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York with George Hearn and Ruthie Henshall replacing McCook and Egan.
Many tribute shows don't work, but the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim work here, especially with the vocal capabilities of Mary-Pat Green, Jeff Leibow, Brian Yates Sharber, Michael Brown and Kate Del Castillo. Add musical conductor David Dobrusky and associate musical director John Florencio and you are a damn good two hour entertaining variety show. On the night we saw the show, Florencio was excellent hitting those ivory keys.
There is a slim narrative to the two hour with intermission production about an upper-middle-class couple who are filthy rich but very disaffected. The wife Amy (Mary Pat Green) looks at other men and husband Charles (Michael Brown) looks at other women. There are crises in their marriage that involve a handsome young associate Barry (Jeff Leibow) and his teasing date, Julie (Kate Del Castillo). A fetching observer (Brian Yates Sharber), who also becomes part of the action, explains it all to the audience. You can forget about the thin story when this group of five sings the work of one of America's greatest tune smiths.
Brian Yates Sharber opens the show with the clever "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience," wittily rewritten by Sondheim for this production. He does it with a wonderful technique of inherent humor. Although sometimes Brian does not reach some of the complicated notes, such as in the "Merrily Fragment," he uses his acting ability to put over the song. He is especially good in "Buddy's Blues" as he moves about the stage.
Outstanding is Mary-Pat Green (original cast of Candide and Sweeney Todd, national tour of Godspell and Off-Broadway Nunsense plus over 50 television productions). Her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" is almost as good as the great Elaine Stritch singing the classic song. She displays that certain bitchiness that is priceless. She does a splendid comic turn as a frantic bride in "Getting Married Today," and her duet with the impish Brian Yates Sharber (Raisin, Memphis and Ragtime at TheatreWorks) is jaunty, with Sharber playing a fey maid.
Jeff Leibow (Radames in Aida at the Willows) has an interpretive elegance in his vocal power when singing "Pretty Women," "Live Alone and Like It," and "Marry Me a Little." Michael Brown (Beggar's Holiday, Ain't Misbehavin') has a commanding voice, especially when singing "Hello, Little Girl" and in the duet "Do I Hear a Waltz?" with Mary-Pat Green. Kate Del Castillo (Oh Kay, A Little Night Music) gives a smooth rendition of "Sooner or Later" and a hilarious interpretation of "Lovely" in her duet with Mary-Pat Green.
Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together has an open ended run at SF Playhouse's new theatre located at 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco, For tickets call 415-677-9596 or go to www.Ticketweb.com . You can also check their website at www.sfplayhouse.org.