Hope Mill Theatre is a quaint place in the bustling metropolis on the outskirts of Manchester City Centre, the perfect place to host a party in an upmarket penthouse. Picture the scene: it’s Christmas, you’re in New York, there’s good company and even better drinks – it’s the perfect recipe for disaster. Throughout the evening we are introduced to five friends and what seems to be there in-house pianist. Two couples and the “maid,” all crammed together in one room for no reason other than they can, isn’t life great?
The beginning of the musical is heavily reminiscent of The Play That Goes Wrong as a few fallen lights and phones ringing all around. The start also introduces us to Andrew Gallo’s character that helps us to identify the key ingredients to good theatre etiquette before we dive into the genius of Stephen Sondheim. Cue the music! From here on in the only words to be spoken are simple adjectives between scenes to piece things together, so if you don’t like musicals, then I’m afraid you’ll be at the wrong place. The set is very minimalistic: a simple checkerboard pattern on the floor, a mini bar, a chaise lounge and perhaps the best bit, a remarkable white grand piano. However, this set is anything but basic, it in fact works in their favour as it allows them to do a vast amount with their voice and movement without relying heavily on props or the set, which is the hallmark of a very talented cast!
Putting It Together takes an assortment of songs from various Sondheim musicals and strings them together brilliantly to create a faultless storyline. This musical seems ageless, without a few modern aspects here and there (selfie anyone?) you wouldn’t be able to add a timeframe as the storyline lends itself to any era and it convinces you that it belongs there. A fair number of the songs in this arrangement come from Company (which has just opened a run on the West End) including ‘Getting Married Today’ which, notoriously is one of the most difficult songs to sing (believe me I’ve tried!) however, you wouldn’t know this considering the way Lauren James Ray sings, from the use of her remarkable breath control and incredible voice, she executes it immaculately, all while keeping up the comedic value of the song. During this song, one of the characters is named as Amy and it’s the only time throughout the whole performance that any of the characters are, in fact, given a name. This seems unusual for a play, however it works. It manages to intrigue you yet still hook you into the characters’ backstories and get you to connect with them on a personal level.
Gallo, a narrator figure in this musical, the omniscient being always in the background, perfectly adds to the vibe of the apartment and without the brilliance of this character, some of the scenes could have run the risk of being slightly stagnant. All the scenes work amazingly separately in their respective musicals, but it’s Gallo’s character that pieces them all together. Gallo is immense from start to finish; every aspect and fibre of his character is alive and is beautifully performed to create the seamless blend of humour and raw emotion that anyone can relate to.
For me, Putting It Together with this cast is a must see. It is skilfully carried out for the entire duration and you are unable to draw your eyes away for fear that you’ll blink and miss a truly gifted cast so obviously pour their heart and souls into this production at a small theatre in Manchester and do so as if they are performing to thousands on Broadway.
Putting It Together is playing Hope Mill Theatre until 24 November. For more information and tickets, click here.