International City Theatre pays tribute to the late, great Stephen Sondheim, kicking off its 37th season with Marry Me A Little. A must-see for Sondheim aficionados, this bittersweet musical two-hander, which weaves 17 of Sondheim’s lesser-known songs into a tale of love and loneliness, opens February 11 at ICT’s home in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Performances will continue through February 27. Two low-priced previews take place on February 9 and February 10.
In Marry Me A Little, two lonely strangers pass the time fantasizing in their separate apartments — never knowing they live just one floor apart from each other. Their shared story is told entirely through songs written early in Sondheim’s career or cut from his groundbreaking Broadway musicals. This smart, funny, sophisticated and moving evening is a fascinating look at the Sondheim songs that “got away.”
Sondheim, who died on November 26 at the age of 91, was a titan of the American musical theater, respected as much for his storytelling ability as for his songwriting. In a posthumous tribute “How Stephen Sondheim changed theater forever,” Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote that Sondheim’s “contribution to the theater is as significant from a literary as it is from a musical standpoint… It is no exaggeration to say that Sondheim changed the nature of theatrical storytelling. Through his lyrical cleverness and openness to dramatic invention, through his canny balancing of romanticism and anti-romanticism, he carved out space for ambivalence in a popular art form that leaned heavily on sentimental simplicity.”
A disciple of Oscar Hammerstein, Sondheim got his start writing the lyrics for West Side Story (1957) and Gypsy (1959). Other famous shows include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum (1962), Company (1970), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987) — just to name a few. Sondheim earned eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award (for the song “Sooner or Later” in the Dick Tracy film). He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and, in 2017, he became the first composer/lyricist to win the PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, given to a “critically acclaimed writer whose body of work helps us understand and interpret the human condition.” Sondheim’s perspective, talent and wit singlehandedly influenced and changed musical theater throughout his long career.
Marry Me A Little runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 11 through February 27. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Feb. 9 and Thursday, Feb. 10, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are $49 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except February 11, opening night, for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception), and $52 for Sunday matinees. Low-priced tickets to previews are $37. Proof of vaccination is required for admission, and masks, covering both mouth and nose, must be worn throughout the performance.
For more information and to purchase tickets, call (562) 436-4610 or go to www.InternationalCityTheatre.org.