Bit by bit, Putting It Together, the so-called "review" of songs by Stephen Sondheim, has been meticulously pieced together toward its Broadway opening, Nov. 21.
Previews began Oct. 30 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where the marquee announces the show as a "review," as in career review, not "revue." Nevertheless, Putting It Together is both a conceptual revue and review of Sondheim theatre songs (familiar and un-), placed in the context of a cocktail party in which Carol Burnett raises a glass with fellow partygoers John Barrowman, George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall and Bronson Pinchot.
During its preview period, "Come Play Wiz Me" from Anyone Can Whistle was dropped to make way for Carol Burnett doing a gender bent rendition of "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" (with Pinchot) from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum..
Sondheim has tweaked some lyrics to make them specific to the world of Putting It Together, in which yearnings and tensions are revealed as the evening progresses. Eric D. Schaeffer directs, Bob Avian choreographs.
Schaeffer is the rising director who has staged Sondheim's work to acclaim in Washington DC. Avian co-choreographed A Chorus Line and created musical staging for Miss Saigon. The flu knocked Carol Burnett out of performances the weekend of Nov. 12, but she rebounded for a week of pre-opening performances. Her standby, Ronnie Farer, went on.
Putting It Together (which pulls its title from a song in Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park With George) has its roots in a 1992 English production devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie. She directed that version at the Old Fire Station, Oxford, England , and Cameron Mackintosh, who nurtured Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, produced.
The show had its New York City premiere in 1993 at Manhattan Theatre Club, by special arrangement with Mackintosh. Julie Andrews led a McKenzie-directed cast.
Now, Andrews' old pal, Burnett, is in the role of The Wife. The stock characters in the Broadway production are known as The Husband (Hearn), The Younger Man (Barrowman), The Younger Woman (Henshall) and The Observer (Pinchot). At certain performances, The Wife will be played by singer and talk show diva, Kathie Lee Gifford (of the syndicated "Regis & Kathie Lee").
Gifford will play Tuesday evenings beginning Dec. 7, although Burnett is expected to play Tuesdays around the holidays (Dec. 21 & 28).
This new production is an extension of an October-December 1998 staging seen at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The creative team for the California run was the same, but John McCook played The Husband and Susan Egan (Triumph of Love) was The Younger Woman.
In Broadway previews, the two-act Putting It Together will include 33 songs and an entr'acte (orchestrated by longtime Sondheim collaborator Jonathan Tunick). Shows represented include The Frogs, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Assassins, the film "Dick Tracy" and the unproduced TV musical, "Do You Hear a Waltz?"
Putting Together together are designers Bob Crowley (set and costumes), Howard Harrison (lighting), Andrew Bruce and Mark Menard (sound). Burnett's costume is by Bob Mackie. Wendall K. Harrington provides projections. Paul Raiman is musical director.
While best known for her comedy/variety television program, "The Carol Burnett Show," Burnett was beloved by Broadway audiences for her starring role in Once Upon a Mattress. She left Broadway for many years after appearing in the Hollywood-satire musical, Fade Out- Fade In, but returned in 1995, in the Ken Ludwig comedy, Moon Over Buffalo.
Barrowman's credits include London's Beauty and the Beast and The Fix, Broadway's Sunset Boulevard, among others. On Broadway, Hearn appeared in The Diary of Anne Frank, Sweeney Todd, La Cage aux Folles and Sunset Boulevard and more. British Henshall is an alum of the Chicago revival in New York and London. Pinchot is best known for the role of Balki in the popular TV series, "Perfect Strangers."
For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.