Gifted performers bring sparkle to Bay Theatre's `Marry Me'


Arundel Live

October 16, 2003|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With its stated aim of establishing a professional ensemble and studio in Annapolis, Bay Theatre Company has big plans.

But with last season's production of David Mamet's searing two-person play Oleanna and this fall's Stephen Sondheim revue, Marry Me A Little, the company has started out small.

That's small in scale, not small in talent. The intimate, fast-paced evening of Sondheim songs in production at the company's new theater on the outer West Street corridor sports a pair of gifted performers who do wonderful things with the odes to missed connections and disconnections that make up the score.

Marry Me A Little is an extended medley sung by a man and a woman in search of meaning on a lonely Saturday night in Manhattan.

Individually and together, they sing of love, lust and the heartbreaking bittersweetness of it all in a songbook full of evocative, though lesser-known Sondheim tunes. (The most recognizable is the title song, on loan from Company, the composer's marvelously clever study of dysfunctional relationships.)

No one else in the history of Broadway gets to the emotional nitty-gritty like Sondheim, and his brand of soul-baring honesty is well served by both Bay Theatre principals.

The stunner is Catherine Brookman, a precocious 16-year-old who is a fine singer-actress and whose growth potential is mind-boggling. The score presents her with a variety of musical genres and emotional states, and she doesn't miss any of them.

Brookman is full of laughs and erotic sizzle as she dons different hats and assumes different voices and male facial expressions in "Can That Boy Foxtrot." Minutes later, she's an irate wife spitting anger all over the golf course in "Pour Le Sport."

Most stunning is her knowing way with "There Won't Be Trumpets," Sondheim's sad but wise acknowledgement that the end of a relationship looms in the not-so-distant future.

Brookman is matched note for note and facial take for facial take by co-star Evan Casey, a musical theater major at Washington's Catholic University.

With snappy Pauline Grossman choreography to help, he complements his partner well in the Fred-and-Gingerly duet "A Moment With You" and, later, shows he, too, can be prickly in "Pour Le Sport."

Striking out on his own, Casey regales the audience with the horrors of commitment in "Happily Ever After" and he is bitter as can be in "Silly People."

Anchoring the production is some out-of-this world piano playing by Dave Richardson. For all the jagged edges they contain, Sondheim songs rarely lose their dignity and class, and this keyboard artist's probing but elegant way with the score puts him center stage with his younger colleagues.

Bay Theatre Company's production of Stephen Sondheim's "Marry Me A Little" plays at the company's new facility off the lower courtyard of the West Garrett Building, 275 West St. in Annapolis, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons through Nov. 8. Tickets are $20; $10 for seniors and students with valid identification. Reservations: 410-268-1333.

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