Stephen Sondheim, master of musicals, celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this year but on the whole London has been a little slow in marking the event. This intimate venue got in early, hosting an interesting revival of Anyone Can Whistle (one of his less successful enterprises) back in March, Assassins finishes a short sold-out run at the Union in Southwark at the end of the week, and Into the Woods at the Open Air Theatre and Passion at the Donmar are on their way.
But if you want to get a taste of the variety of his clever, often cynical, lyrics and music and haven’t managed to grab a ticket for what’s turned out to be a “returns only” Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, then this selection of comparatively unfamiliar numbers, picked from over a dozen of his shows, provides a pleasant alternative.
A cast of five (accompanied by the musical director at the piano) sings their way through nearly thirty songs. There’s been no attempt to link them but they flow smoothly enough. Some fare less well stripped of their original context – my companion, a recent fan, was somewhat bemused by references to a cow and beans – but most of them stand easily alone.
Laura Armstrong is suitably flustered when her shoe gets stuck On the Steps of the Palace. Every Day A Little Death comes across as poignantly piquant as ever and Everybody Wants A Maid is cheeky fun even though the vaudeville comedy is rather over-egged.
Several of the interpretations would benefit from being considerably less emphatic, but, in a space this small, at least you’re guaranteed to hear every one of Sondheim’s witty words.
Jermyn Street Theatre SW1Y 6ST
020 7287 2875
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Until 24th July
Review: Louise Kingsley