‘Marry Me a Little’ at Creative Cauldron by Yvonne French

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Dani Stoller and Lou Steele should go down in regional theater history as “Stoller and Steele” for Marry Me a Little. It is one of the top shows I have seen in 25 years.

Dani Stoller, left, as HER, and Lou Steele as HIM. Photo courtesy of Creative Cauldron.
Dani Stoller, left, as HER, and Lou Steele as HIM. Photo by Margie Jervis.

Brilliantly directed by Matt Conner, the revue was conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, who picked lesser-known pieces that Stephen Sondheim had discarded after they were culled from the final versions of his famous Broadway musicals. The songs in the revue are from the shows Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and A Little Night Music. Taken together, they create a romantic song cycle that takes place in the apartments of two lonely New Yorkers. There is no dialog, as everything is conveyed through song.

The singers are Dani Stoller (as HER) and Lou Steele (as HIM). They take us from  their private longings, through liaison (with others) and attraction (to each other), until it becomes a blossoming relationship, and they sing together about a white picket fence in the duet “Who Could Be Blue?/Little White House,” a cut from Follies.   

As HER, Stoller is vocally expressive using slides and glissandos in the sultry solo “Can That Boy Foxtrot,” another cut from Follies that is about a grocery store clerk she hooks up with before she gets together with HIM. Her Brooklyn accent comes out in this song, and it would be fun to hear it in some of the others.

As HIM, Steele showed his vocal versatility in “Uptown, Downtown,” again from Follies, and his strength as a singer is consistently solid.

The sexy “Bang,” from A Little Night Music, showcases the range of both of their voices. The way they sing together is like a ballet, with Steele being more supportive and Stoller providing the flourishes with her excellent tremolo.

The song I enjoy the most also has the most physical acting. “Marry Me a Little” from Company, is a more controlled duet about the foibles of a his-and-her golf outing. He accentuates it well with his adept swings of the club along with some old Fred Astaire soft shoe, and she joins in for a Ginger Rogers dip.

My favorite song lyrically is the hopeful but gut-wrenching, “There Won’t Be Trumpets,” a cut from Anyone Can Whistle, which Stoller sings with a restraint that makes you wonder what the future holds for this pair of lonely neighbors.

The pianist, Amy Conley, is sublime. She combines amazing technicality with nuanced tone and an excellent sense of rhythm. She carries the show with perfect timing while keeping it to exactly one hour, something that many Washington audiences secretly appreciate.

Marry-Me-A-Little-Web (2)Set and Props Designer Margie Jervis makes it clear from the beginning—with rugs no less–that we are seeing two separate apartments. Tiara Hairston’s surround-sound traffic and city noises reinforce the apartment feel. Another thing that draws you right into the performance is the lack of microphones or amplification in the intimate space, which has been a gem sitting just inside the Beltway for five seasons. It was founded by Laura Connors Hull, who is producing director, and is supported by a range of public and private establishments.

Running Time: One hour, with no intermission.

Marry Me a Little plays through October 27, 2013 at Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace Falls Church – 410 South Maple Avenue, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 436-9948, or purchase them online.