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Putting it Together (St James Theatre)

The Sondheim revue makes its belated London premiere at the St James Theatre, featuring an all-star cast

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Clockwise from top left: David Bedella, Daniel Crossley, Damian Humbley, Caroline Sheen and Janie Dee

It's old fashioned, sure, but this revival of Sondheim's 1992 revue Putting it Together - devised by the composer with actress Julia McKenzie, who was in attendance last night - is a fine showcase of both the breadth of Sondheim's oeuvre, and of five consummate performers in Janie Dee, Damian Humbley, Caroline Sheen, David Bedella and Daniel Crossley.

The show, a follow up to the better known Side by Side by Sondheim, knits together songs from shows including Into the Woods, Company and Merrily We Roll Along to form a new narrative centring on two turbulent marriages.

Most of the combinations work well - the cocktail party that starts with "Rich and Happy" (from Merrily) and leads to "Hello Little Girl" (delivered with menace by Bedella on a chaise lounge) is initially a joy, but rather falls apart when "Have I Got a Girl for You" (Company) awkwardly segues into "Pretty Women" (from Sweeney Todd); this combination does neither song any favours by flipping the sentiments on their heads.

But, awkward juxtapositions aside, this is a chance to relax and allow some of the best musical theatre of the past 50 years to wash over you, free from narrative concerns ("If you see flaws, please / Don't drop your jaws").

The highlights include Sheen and Humbley's duet on "Unworthy of Your Love" from Assassins - about as close as Sondheim gets to a traditional pop ballad - and Dee's second act renditions of "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Not Getting Married Today" (someone sign her up for a revival of Company quick). There is also a wonderfully energetic "Buddy's Blues" (Follies) from Crossley, reminding us why he proved such a success as Bert in Mary Poppins - which was opposite Sheen in the title role, as it happens.

The young band under MD Theo Jamieson are excellent, and director Alistair Knights ensures the action flows as smoothly as the champagne. A smart and sassy evening, one that Sondheim aficionados won't want to miss.

Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing on 27 January 2014 including a top-price ticket and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A - all for £30.00.