Putting It Together
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Porchlight puts together a sensational Sondheim review
|Porchlight Music Theatre presents|
|Putting It Together|
Review by Katy Walsh
Me: Look, Alex Weisman.
Theatre Bob: Yep, he’s in the show.
Me: Which show?
Theatre Bob: This one.
Having never seen Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together, I thought Alex Weisman was Porchlight’s special guest making the obligatory cell phone announcement. He unassumingly meanders on stage and hilariously kicks off the show with a sequence from The Frogs. During his introduction, the band casually arrives and takes their place on stage. Weisman and Pianist Austin Cook banter with delightful jocular familiarity. From the playful start, it’s obvious that Porchlight Music Theatre has done a fantastical job Putting It Together.
The show was originally devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie to be a cabaret showcase of Stephen’s popular tunes from musicals like Company and A Little Night Music. Taking that concept and Chicago-izing it, Director Brenda Didier formats the show as a party. A successful couple hosts a gathering where negotiations for love and fame are shaken not stirred. The cocktails flow and so does the music. One song leads into another. The sequential order of the music tells a story and the actors effectively add in the back story. Didier masterfully makes it into an evening of ‘the art of making art.’
The musical direction of Austin Cook sets the festive tone for the party. It’s a ‘like you play piano, bass and drums’ combo. Cook is distractingly adorable as the animated piano player, and the band doesn’t disappear into the background. The trio chitchat, do shots and rock this party! The hostess for the evening is the stylish McKinley Carter. Carter is magnificent as a diva playing a diva. Her rendition of ‘The Ladies that Lunch’ is dripping with elegant disdain. Her ‘There Is always a Woman’ duet with Aja Goes is the showstopper. It’s the musical version of a verbal cat fight. Delicious! Playing and being a newcomer to Chicago theatre, Goes makes a memorable first impression. Her pitch and comedic timing are perfect. The talented guys hold-their-own but the ladies are unforgettable. Weisman, in particular, amuses with his signature antics. A fresh-faced Weisman zings a punchline with one well-placed look or gesture. For the opening, Weisman was not always audible. I’m not sure if it was a faulty microphone or his soft-spoken singing.
The party scene is enhanced by Designer John Zukier. Mid-century furniture and colorful artwork creates a fashionable apartment for the successful couple. It’s just all works! Never before has a play so resembled the song that the title is based on…
‘Bit by bit, putting it together,
Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art,
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part,
Having just a vision’s no solution,
Everything depends on execution.’
Putting It Together has been executed brilliantly!
Porchlight Music Theatre’s Putting It Together continues through October 16th at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm and 6pm . Tickets are $32-$38, and can be purchased by phone (773-975-8150) or online at PorchlightMusicTheatre.com. More information here. (Running time: One hour and forty-five minutes, with one intermission)
All photos by Jeremy Rill
McKinley Carter (Woman #1); Aja Goes (Woman #2); Adam Pelty (Man #1); Michael Reckling (Man #2); Alex Weisman (Man #3); David Sajewich (Understudy, Man #1); Sara Stern (Understudy, Woman #1); Luis Herrera Jr. (Understudy, Man #2); Tom McGunn (Understudy, Man #3); Jill Sesso (Understudy, Woman #2)
behind the scenes
Brenda Didier (director); John Zukier (scenic); Julie Ballard (lighting); Matthew Guthier (costumes); Joseph Fosco (sound); Matthew Lew (artwork); David A. Loranca (stage manager); Kelli Marino (dramaturg); Jeremy Rill (photos)
Director and Music Director
Brenda Didier (Direction/Musical Staging) is excited to be collaborating with Porchlight Music Theatre again and is proud to be making her Porchlight directing debut with this production! Ms. Didier is the founder, director and president of the Lincolnshire Academy of Dance and its award winning dance companies, Expressions. Ms. Didier is a multiple Jeff Award and After Dark Award recipient and has choreographed numerous Chicago productions from Second City’s mainstage to 5 years of Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier’s Skyline Stage. "Much gratitude to Michael Weber, Jon Heuring, Bil Ingraham, Austin Cook and this incredible design team and cast!"
Austin Cook (Music Direction/Pianist) is the most recent recipient of the Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best Music Direction (Theo Ubique’s Some Enchanted Evening-The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein) and was recently the Music Director of their Theatre on the Lake transfer of Sweet and Hot-The Songs of Harold Arlen. Before moving to Chicago in 2009, Austin worked for Walt Disney Entertainment in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, collaborating on such projects as the musicals of Finding Nemo and Toy Story.