Opening night: November 21, 1999 in the Barrymore Theatre.
Final performance: February 20, 2000
A musical review featuring the songs from Stephen Sondheim, all tied together and tweaked for the setting of a party with two couples for a minimalist setup of a storyline.
This show stars Ruthie Henshall, Carol Burnett, Kathie Lee Gifford (sometimes on behalf of Ms. Burnett), John Barrowman, George Hearn, and Bronson Pinchot.
A review -- from December 28, 1999:
"Art isn't easy./Every Minor Detail/is a major decision./Have to keep things in scale/Have to hold to your vision." -- from the Stephen Sondheim song "Putting it Together"
Of course art isn't easy. Putting such a big show on Broadway from its days in London, New York (City Center), to Los Angeles and now in New York again wouldn't be easy. Most would treat the show like a revue, but it's called "A Musical Review" in the idea that this show does have a (if minimalistic) plot. It's certain that the points of the songs make up the logical glue that puts this show together, and nothing more. Some might say that Quake 3 Arena has as much plot as this show.
After all, these songs came from a variety of musicals. Some of the shows in question are "The Frogs," "Merrily we Roll Along," "Sunday in the Park With George" (the musical that has "Putting it Together"), and the movie "Dick Tracy" (yes, the one with Warren Beatty and Madonna)! These songs work more in their respective musicals rather than being detachable ballads, but the glue made by a narrator or sorts will make the combination of songs work.
Starting with the "Invocation," the observer David Engel (who is the standby for Mr. Pinchot) kidded the audience with a note that Regis Philbin is playing the role of the Husband (Kathie Lee Gifford usually work this show on Tuesdays, Carol Burnett performed for the holiday season). Well, George Hearn is the real man in the role. Hearn and Burnett set things up with a party, a party not unlike what you would have seen in a condominium in a big city like in New York. Then you have the younger couple, played by John Barrowman and Ruthie Henshall.
With the songs Lovely and Hello Little Girl, the Husband and the Younger Woman start becoming flirty. I knew for sure that Ruthie will have to be so... "straightforward" as with her performance in Chicago: The Musical. Like a game of chess, one piece of this five-piece cast make one move towards another piece. The Wife then goes for the Observer (Mr. Engel's role) with him dressed up as a maid for the song Everybody Ought to Have a Maid. Well, parts of this plot (like the Wife's supposed affair with the Observer) is not so "terminated" as though like a SCSI connection.
Well, this show still has its better connection with the younger couple. Being one to acquire the taste of Ruthie Henshall's sexually aggressive approach to her footwork and acting, she 0wned me in this big show. She didn't just impressed me or "wowed" me, but she 0wned me. I just wanted to say that Ruthie's performance is not unlike that of the concept of gibbing, yet she is so cute in that sparkly little black dress (hints of her "Chicago" roots?). My heart was racing to her presence when she did "Sooner or Later" from the film Dick Tracy. I was so delighted to see her dance with the Younger Man in "Bang."
When the Wife knows of the Younger Woman's possible affair with the Husband, There's Always a Woman becomes the duel between the two women, but not a total deathmatch with their "civility" in the party. They slipped off their methods of each other's destruction and hate in their attempts at a Wendy Liebman joke. Maybe it's just me, but this rivalry is not long enough...
However, the Wife then remembers her wedding (her first wedding, that is). Her memories then invoked Not Getting Married Today, with Ruthie playing a one-woman choir extolling the beauty of the wedding while the Wife dashes off the beauty like a plate to throw at the choir singer.
Well, as with the title, the cast reassembles as Old Friends. The married couple falls for each other again, and the bond between the younger couple becomes stronger, once and again.
When this show was first mentioned, I thought I would have to understand the Sondheim shows that make up the context of the songs. Well, the logical glue that is provided by the songs got through the point, and I'm good as hooked to hear his works. Listening to Ute Lemper's album City of Strangers doesn't hurt.
(Credits: Stephen Sondheim Stage -- http://www.sondheim.com/shows/putting_it_together/)