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Not Quite Together Yet: Barker’s Putting it Together a swing and a miss

Passion and good intentions do not translate into a solid theatrical production, otherwise the current show at Barker Playhouse would automatically be a hit.

The seven-person cast in “Putting it Together,” a musical review of dozens of songs by the great composer Stephen Sondheim is certainly enthusiastic, but the show simply appears too ambitious for an amateur group like Barker to pull of successfully.

Imagine – the original London production included Diana Rigg in the lead, and the Broadway opening included Carol Burnett and George Hearn. Some of the voices in the Barker production are strong and clear, but not all. When there are just seven in the cast, that’s a grave deficit.

The show does have the nostalgia factor – songs like “Have I Got a Girl for You,” “Country House,” “Back in Business,” ”Getting Married Today” and “Old Friends” remind the audience of Sondheim’s power and the appeal of such shows as “Company,” “Follies,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Assassins.”

But the songs are not all easy to execute and the cast struggles at too many points. In addition, after just half of the 33 numbers in the two-hour production, the cast seems depleted. Performing as three couples working the songs in tandem, the cast is hobbled by a lack of chemistry that makes some interactions almost painful. Instead of couples, they seem randomly matched and that makes the lyrics less impactful and believable.

In addition, while the presence of seven stools positioned across the stage at the beginning of the show implies it might unfold as a concert, many of the numbers feature choreography that is mostly lackluster and forced. Again, the lack of chemistry makes other moves seem forced and sloppy moves are distracting. When the stools are employed, as six seat while one offers a solo, the seated actors seem checked out and bored instead of engaged.

With the nostalgia of hearing favorite show tunes, there are a few moments that are well executed. Steve Lavallee has a strong, clear voice that resonates beautifully on “Pretty Woman” from “Sweeney Todd.” Rebecca Kilcline’s soprano voice is lush, especially on “Unworthy of Your Love.” Her rapid-fire delivery in “Getting Married Today” offer the show’s best moments. And Liz Messier’s antics on “My Husband’s a Pig” are sassy and funny.

“Putting it Together” is on stage through May 22 at Barker, 400 Benefit St, PVD. For more information or tickets, go to www.playersri.org

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