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'Marry Me A Little' a stunning musical production

Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me A Little,” now playing at the Randall Theatre in Medford, is a stunning musical production portraying two ordinary young people, alone in their separate apartments, and fantasizing. Each one knows of the other's existence, but they haven’t the courage to speak to each other. They imagine what their life together might be like. They separately act out the infinite possibilities of falling in love: the adventure, the romance, the camaraderie, the passion, the angst, the disaster.

The play combines many well-known and obscure songs by Sondheim into a fanciful love story filled with spice and drama. Like an opera, the dialogue is all in song. The lyrics sound natural; they have a conversational quality as the words and ideas overlap, meld, and then separate.

The characters’ imaginations drive them further and further into an extraordinarily complex relationship, exposing each character’s underlying doubts and fears, and exploring the selfishness and selflessness of love. It is a universal journey worth taking. The songs tell a deep story, held together by two attractive and compelling characters.

On a Saturday night, the characters, Man and Woman, wander around their separate apartments, staring at the walls, feeling sorry for themselves and drinking.

The Man, Benjamin Linder, brings to the stage a strong masculine presence contrasting Haley Forsyth’s supple vulnerability as the Woman. Both are strong performers, and have surprising chemistry. Their movements are seamless, as they move in and out of each other’s imaginary lives. They play to each other’s strengths and really hit-it-off in the dance sequence, “Can That Boy Fox Trot.”

Doubts arise as the fantasy romance progresses, leading to frustration and even stark terror but never betrayal. There are 18 songs in all, weaving together a rich variety of lyrics, melodies, rhythms and musical styles. The title song “Marry Me A Little” refers to the ideal relationship.

Sondheim, who has been a giant American musical theater for over 50 years, began his career as a lyricist for “West Side Story” and has created such diverse musicals as “Follies” and “Sweeney Todd.”

Direction by Haley Forsyth is superb. Scenes flow cinematically into each other; the pacing is perfect, and the characters are lovable and believable.

The voices complement each other and match the music, almost perfectly, with Musical Direction by Elizabeth Suzanne and Sound Design by John Wing.

The set (designed by Nico Hewitt) is perfectly angled and proportioned to allow the performers to flow in and out of each-other’s imaginations gracefully. The lush dark green textures of the walls, contrast the ordinary furnishings which, at the beginning, portrays the temporary apartments of young working- class folk.

The intricate stage lighting (Elise Bellamy) transforms both apartments as moods change and romance blossoms. At times the space looks beautiful and romantic, at other times bland, and sometimes even forbidding. The costumes are designed to give an ordinary feel to the young people, contrasting the heightened love they envision.

On Thursday night, the small but jovial audience was enthusiastic throughout. This is a thoroughly professional production. If you like Sondheim, this is not to be missed.

“Marry Me A Little” with words and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim plays at the Randall Theatre: March 30, 31, April 1, 6, 7, & 8 at 7 pm, and, April 2, 9, at 1 pm. For tickets and information visit: www.randalltheatre.com or call: 541-632-3258.

Evalyn Hansen is a freelance writer based in Ashland. Reach her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com or visit her blog: ashlandtheater.wordpress.com.

Benjamin Linder and Haley Forsyth appear in Randall Theatre's 'Marry Me a Little,' running through April 9. [Photo by Toni Holley]