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Randall Theatre presents Sondheim's 'Marry Me a Little'

Two lonely people live next door to each other. They've met, dated once and then went their own ways.

We see their apartments merged as one, functioning as his and hers. The evening, and how they feel about it unfolds through the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s touching songs. That’s the setup for the musical “Marry Me a Little.”

“It all takes place in real time one Saturday night,” says Robin Downward, artistic director of Randall Theatre. “They had one date that fell apart, but they see something in the other that draws them together. Their past failed relationships and the chance that this one could fail prevent them from exploring the relationship more. They’ve seen each other on the stairs and on the street, but neither dares to ask the other out for a second date.”

Randall Theatre's production of Sondheim's revue opens with a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 17, at its warehouse theater, 10 Third St., Medford. Tickets are $22 and include appetizers, beverages and reserved seats. Other shows are set for 7 p.m. Saturday, March 18, Thursdays through Saturdays, March 23-25, March 30 through April 1, April 6-8, and 1 p.m. Sundays, March 19 and 26 and April 2 and 9. Reserved seats are $18.

Get opening night tickets for $15 and reserved seating for $12 (through March 26) at showtix4u.com.

Tickets and information are available at www.randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258. Pay-what-you-want tickets are available 30 minutes before shows, subject to availability.

The story is driven entirely by songs. Haley Forsyth and Benjamin Linder O'Neill make up the cast of two. Forsyth directs, and musical director is Elizabeth Suzanne. 

This revue sets songs cut from Sondheim’s better-known musicals from 1954 to 1973, and a few from later shows, and unlike many revues, by the end of the evening a story has been told.

“It’s a very relatable story,” Downward says. “It’s a story of loneliness and self-discovery, and it’s a story about where you find yourself when everything else stops. These two people are single 20-somethings who think they know what they want in life and in a relationship, but actually don't have a clue. The two are stubborn in showing their true feelings about how they want to be with someone. That attitude actually prevents them from finding someone to spend their time with."

The challenge of having two actors carry an entire musical production didn't intimidate Downward.

“I’ve always enjoyed the singing more than the dialogue in a production,” he says. “Haley and Benjamin have a nice chemistry together. The songs provide so much subtext for the actors to play with. Sondheim's songs are not surface songs at all. Everything is underneath. They play like scenes or monologues. This gives the actors quite a bit of material to play with.”

Working with a cast of two rather than a musical with big production numbers is another thing Downward loves about theater.

“You have a lot more in-depth character work than you would have if you had tons of people on stage,” he says. “In this case, I really like the fact that the actors get to do the character work as if they were involved in a straight play.”

The first two weeks of rehearsals were spent creating the characters for "Marry Me a Little." The cast and director combed through the song lyrics looking for hints about each of them.

"It’s not a sad play, though it sounds like it could be,” Downward says. “For people who love the music of Sondheim, this is a piece of cake. If patrons are not familiar with his work, it will be a treat to hear some of these gems firsthand and see them performed by two wonderful actors.”

Set design is by Nico Hewitt, costumes by Toni Holley and Celetta Katski, lighting by Elise Bellamy and sound is by John Wing.

Benjamin Linder O'Neill, left, and Haley Forsyth are the sole cast members of Randall Theatre's 'Marry Me a Little,' with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. [Photo by Toni Holley]