Getting Married Today, Phoenix Artist Club London ★★★½

Reviewed for The Reviews Hub:

The challenges for any musical performers attempting to put a cabaret evening together are finding a decent theme for the song selections, and what to do in those inter-song spaces. Amy Alexander and Alice Mistroni solve both problems by turning the cabaret into a chamber musical, playing a bride and bridesmaid as the former gets the jitters on her wedding day.

Mistroni opens with Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little, a plaintive opening by Mistroni’s bridesmaid, giving the first hints at a character backstory that remains lightly referenced throughout. When Alexander bursts in to announce the cancellation of her wedding, she does so with another Sondheim number from Company, the patter song Getting Married Today. The pace and verbal hoops which the singer has to jump through in this number can trip up the most accomplished of performers, and here Alexander struggles. In the battle between speed, audibility and pitch, it is the first that comprehensively wins.

In many ways, that is a disappointing introduction to Alexander who, in the evening’s spoken moments, provides a great sense of comic delivery. While the script that she and Mistroni have created recycles many a trope from wedding-themed romantic comedies, there is a sense that the actresses have hit upon stage personas that serve both their own strengths and the songs they have selected.

And that song selection is, thankfully, not limited to the topic of weddings, bouncing from the humorous takes on sex (You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You’re Making Love) from Avenue Q) to more pensive moments from lesser-known composers, such as Lying There from Pasek and Paul’s song cycle Edges, and Kerrigan-Lowdermilk’s road trip duet Freedom.

The cabaret musical’s second act shifts in tone as Alexander’s bride is told that the groom has, in fact, jilted her – and consequently comes to believe that she really did want to get married after all. Here, Alexander once more struggles with pitch (in Cole Porter’s Make It Another Old-Fashioned Please), and once more finds redemption in her character portrayal. In contrast, Mistroni – by far the stronger singer of the duo – sometimes struggles to match her partner’s comedic timing. But with a (sadly truncated) rendition of One Hundred Ways to Lose a Man, and a reframing of Guys and Dolls’ Marry the Man Today as advice from aged grandmothers, the song choices remain pleasantly eclectic.

In the cramped confines of the Phoenix Artist Club’s back room, both singers’ voices sometimes get lost behind musical director Alex Parker’s piano playing. And while that contributes to the imperfections in this show, it is nonetheless a spin on musical theatre cabaret, which, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, generally works well.

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