A fun sampling of Sondheim in ‘Putting It Together’ at Colonial Players of Annapolis

A lovely way to experience the composer's power, beauty, and brilliance.

Colonial Players’ production of Putting It Together is a fun celebration of Stephen Sondheim. A “review” of Sondheim’s music, devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie, it connects many different songs from several of Sondheim’s musicals in a loose plot involving two couples, one falling in love, another struggling. Directed by Vincent Musgrave, with music direction by Andrew Gordon, it shows the power and beauty of Sondheim as a composer.

Tommy Malek serves as emcee for the show, announcing each song’s theme. He warms up the audience with funny summations of Sondheim musicals, giving the moral of Sweeney Todd as “Stress is the number one killer in the fast-food industry.” In “Invocation and Instructions,” he provides a list of dos and don’ts to enjoy the show, “mostly don’ts.” In “Buddy’s Blues,” he frantically spins around the stage while singing of his complicated love life.

Left: Alex Gubler and Ashley Gladden-Vellon; right Josh Mooney and Pam Shilling in ‘Putting It Together.’ Publicity photos by Brandon Bentley.

Josh Mooney plays half of an older couple going through difficulties. In “Hello Little Girl,” he creepily tries to seduce another woman (Ashley Gladden-Vellon), which she strongly rebuffs. In “Country House,” he tries to reconnect with his partner (Pam Shilling) but turns to sarcasm after it proves too challenging. In “The Road You Didn’t Take” and “Good Thing Going,” he is reflective and soft, considering his life and relationship.

Pam Shilling captures the complex feelings of Mooney’s partner. Catching him flirting, she bitterly sings “My Husband the Pig” before reflecting on how she still loves him in “Every Day a Little Death.” In “Could I Leave You,” she angrily considers the possibility of ending things with him, before realizing, “I’ve already left.” In “The Ladies Who Lunch,” she sings with sarcasm about vapid women of a certain class. She also plays humor, joyfully singing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” with its puns and double entendres, and with comic fearfulness in “Getting Married Today.”

Alex Gubler plays one-half of the younger couple with great passion. In “Live Alone and Like It,” he sings joyfully of the pleasures of single life. In “Unworthy of Your Love,” he declares his willingness to do anything to win his partner (Ashley Gladden-Vellon), while in “Marry Me a Little” he shouts “I’m ready!”

Ashley Gladden-Vellon plays Gubler’s partner with powerful energy. In “Sooner or Later,” she sings of her determination to win him, while in “Bang!” she sensuously tangoes with him, effortlessly doing flips and lifts. In “More,” she sings of the pleasures of materialism.

Liz Mulligan and Christian Hudspeth round out the cast backing the couples and Malek. With their high energy, it is a shame that neither have solos or duets.

Set Designer Terry Averill has created a simple yet effective set. A drinks cart is off to the left, while a big, overstuffed spinning chair, designed by Edd Miller, is in the center. Windows beyond the audience seats show a mural of the skyline by Laurie Nolan.

Tommy Malek, Josh Mooney, Alex Gubler, and Christian Hudspeth in ‘Putting It Together.’ Publicity photo by Brandon Bentley.

Costume Designer Beth Terranova evokes a sophisticated yet artsy cocktail party, with the men in tuxes; Gubler and Hudspeth’s jackets are colorful. Shilling wears a colorful, sparkly jacket as well, while Gladden-Vellon has a long, pink dress and Mulligan is in shades of white.

Lighting Designer Dianne Trickey highlights the different emotions for each song, bathing the stage in red light, for instance, with “Bang!” or blue for “Buddy’s Blues.” In “Putting It Together,” a spotlight spins lazily as the cast directs it to the right location. Sound Designer Wes Bedsworth ensures both the music and the singing can be heard, while also throwing out sound effects, like a ringing cell phone.

Music Director Andrew Gordon keeps the musicians (Linda Christensen, Trent Goldsmith, Reid Bowman, Jeff Eckert, and Tony Fidyk) playing high energy while not overwhelming the singers. Vincent Musgrave does a wonderful job as director. The singers move in beautifully choreographed moments, whether in a hot duo tango or a jaunty circling around the stage. The singers capture the emotion of each song, from humor to wistfulness and anger; this viewer especially felt the poignancy of “Being Alive.” In solos, in duets, and company-wide, they also reflect the complexity of Sondheim’s lyrics. Putting It Together is a lovely way to experience the variety and brilliance of Sondheim.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Putting It Together plays through May 6, 2023, at Colonial Players of Annapolis – 108 East Street, Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($25), call the box office at 410-268-7373 or purchase online.

The playbill for Putting It Together is downloadable here.

COVID Safety: Masks are optional, though strongly encouraged. Masks will be required for the April 30 and May 5 performances.


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