Sondheim’s ‘Putting it Together’ kicks off Kent County Theatre Guild season

Cast from Putting It Together from left, Paul Janiga, as Man 1, Stephen Davis as Man 2, Candice Castro as Woman 2, John Muller as Man 3 and Linda Hyler as Woman 1. (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

DOVER — For its first show of 2018, the Kent County Theatre Guild is performing Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting it Together” starting tonight at the Patchwork Playhouse.

The show is a revue showcasing nearly 30 songs by Sondheim musicals such as “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Into the Woods” and “Company,” performed by only five actors accompanied by an orchestra.

“I saw a video of the show a long time ago and I’ve always wanted to direct it but we were waiting for the right cast to be available,” said Nancy Muller, director of the musical.

And in late 2017, the right cast was assembled.

Considering the story is a revue, there isn’t much of a storyline to weave the songs together. The premise is there is a small party of two couples and a single man in a Manhattan apartment.

The guests transform the apartment into the stage of an abandoned theatre, an estate in Sweden, an island outside

Stephen Davis and Candice Castro (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

of Paris, a street off the Roman Forum, the woods of a fairy tale, and a mythical town in the Southwest.

The plot is set in just a couple sentences by actor John Muller before the songs begin.

“There are heavy themes in the songs themselves, but as the revue in its entirety goes, there really isn’t one,” Mr. Muller said.

Sondheim’s songs are typically complex musically and come from deep within a character, making his tunes far from casual listening and a serious task for a performer not rooted in the character for the entirety of a show.

“Sometimes it can be embarrassing to screw up during rehearsal but for this performance, it never is,” said Mr. Muller, playing the fifth wheel at the party. “The music is so difficult not only to perform but to remember too. Sondheim’s music isn’t the type of thing you just listen to while your driving or doing things around the house.”

Adding to the music’s complexity is the wide array of instruments the orchestra requires, unlike many musicals where a piano melody would suffice. Directing the musicians is Andrea Davis and her assistant is Tim Plimpton.

“Sondheim definitely writes very unique and different music,” Mr. Plimpton said. “Putting it Together,” whose title is taken from a song in “Sunday in the Park with George,” is his second show with the Guild. “He always takes the music in a direction you wouldn’t expect, keys change frequently. It’s challenging but fun.”

Mr. Muller’s character warns in the introduction that “if you hear something that sounds like a melody, don’t be thrown off guard” because the music is unusual and at times can sound like the singer and musicians are playing two different pieces.

“At least the musical is easy from a costume and set perspective,” said Paul Janiga who plays Man 1.

“I’ve been doing musicals for years and this is probably one of the hardest I’ve ever done if not the hardest.”

The costumes and set don’t change during the performance but for the 30-song performance, some of the actors are on stage and singing for upwards of 20 songs. Although the show is challenging, the director and actors believe that these types of shows pay off.

Linda Hyler and John Muller. (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

“We are going to continue bringing challenging shows to our actors because raising the bar has consistently resulted in higher quality programs,” said Mr. Muller, who is also president of the Guild’s board.

“And we are always striving to have the highest quality shows possible. We weren’t sure that this performance would be practical for a community theater to pull off but we’re definitely going to perform it successfully.”

The rest of the cast comprises Linda Hyler, Stephen Davis and Candice Castro.

Last season was record breaking for the Guild with a completely sold-out run of “Sister Act” and the organization is taking notes from 2017’s success as are the audiences. Nearly a third of 2018’s tickets are already sold as the 2017’s performances roped in new viewers who are waiting to see what the Guild has in store.

This season has an “Around the World” theme with productions scheduled this year that include the Irish-themed romantic comedy “Outside Mullingar,” “The Sisters Rosensweig,” the French comedy “Don’t Dress for Dinner” and the musical “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

“Putting it Together” runs tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. and Feb. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 for seniors, students and military members, $17 for KCTG members and $12 for children 12 and under. They can be purchased at kctg.org or by calling 302-674-3568.

The Patchwork Playhouse at 140 Roosevelt Ave.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

Paul Janiga and Linda Hyler. (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

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