Those unable to get a ticket for Marianne Elliott’s well-received, gender-swapped reimagining of Company can console themselves with this enjoyable – if insubstantial – canter through Stephen Sondheim’s other works.
Like Company, this musical revue – devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie in 1992 – concerns a group of well-heeled Manhattanites in various stages of romantic entanglements but is a frothier, less cohesive affair. It exists largely to give Sondheim devotees another opportunity to bask in his plaintive melodies and spikily lyrical dexterity, but also showcases a more playful, self-deprecating side that could tip over into chummy self-indulgence in the wrong hands.
Bronagh Lagan’s fluidly co-ordinated production mostly walks this perilously fine line well. Andrew Gallo’s narrator-come-barman is less assured with the in-jokes but sings well and interacts seamlessly with the two couples on Natalie Johnson’s well-proportioned set. William Whelton’s choreography maximises the venue’s limited space, especially the punchy matadorial moves that accompany the tango-like Bang!
Some songs feel crow-barred in, while others – like Unworthy of Your Love, a paean to killer Charles Manson from 1990’s Assassins reworked as a sweet duet between two lovers – benefit hugely from being shorn of their original context. Elsewhere, Gavin James brings a smooth Sinatra-esque insouciance to Have I Got a Girl For You.
But it wouldn’t amount to much more than a fun distraction if it wasn’t for Lauren James Ray, whose performance – whether breaking hearts with Every Day a Little Death or rising to the challenge of the machine-gun delivery of Company’s Not Getting Married Today – provides an emotional through-line that is otherwise absent.