AISLE SAY Philadelphia


Music by Brad Ross
Lyrics by Ellen Greenfield & Hal Hackady
Story by Annette Jolles & Ellen Greenfield
Directed by William Roudebush
Act II Playhouse, 56 East Butler Avenue, Ambler, PA 19002
Reservations & Ticket Information (215) 654-0200 or E-mail:

Reviewed by Claudia Perry

Act II Playhouse's 2002-2003 season starts off with the musical, "Little by Little" with music by Brad Ross and lyrics by Ellen Greenfield and Hal Hackady. Originally produced at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, Florida it was then presented at The York Theatre Company in New York City.

The cast of three, Mollie Hall, Maggie Lakis and Ben Dibble are all strong performers and each one has their moment. The piece is well directed by William Roudebushand barrels along at a fast-paced clip.

The set is a trio of colorful squares (magenta, turquoise and pink) with elongated corners filled in at the bottom with rolls of magenta velvet. Cleverly hidden inside these rolls are the actors' props and changes of costume. Each square has a corresponding chair of the same color. Desks and tables come out of these squares to change the scene in a flash. This clever configuration, by Nick Embree is economic and fun at the same time. The costumes, by Mary Folino are color keyed to match and just as perky. Talk about thinking in tandem.

"Little by Little" is a three character musical about friendship and love and is performed in 90 minutes with no intermission. There are three nameless characters: Woman I, Woman 2 and Man. But though these characters are portrayed by three accomplished actor/singers who try to make them as three-dimensional as possible - they remain flat and unknown to us. Perhaps, in this case, if there were a little dialogue or a bit of a scene -- maybe we could come to a deeper understanding, and a more empathetic view of these people. But the musical is sung through, as seems to be the trend these days, and the songs, for the most part, are on the "charming" side. And in an effort to craft a "light" evening, a lot of the more dramatic moments have been passed over for fluffier ones. This would be fine if the show was written as a comedy and had some laughs - but it doesn't.

Let me start out by saying that all the songs are well crafted and we enjoy listening to the lyrics - they're clear, they make sense and they rhyme. And there are songs like "Popcorn" and "Popcorn II" which are especially clever. The first is a duet where the Man tries to pet with Woman I in a movie theatre. Passing the popcorn becomes his way of masking the fact that he's really trying to cop a feel. In "Popcorn II", a trio, (Man, Woman I & Woman II) passing the popcorn becomes a ruse for burying the hatchet between the three friends. Mollie Hall (as Woman I) does an especially good job of "I Ought to Cry", a dramatic number she sings when feeling betrayed by her boyfriend. But this song doesn't hit the mark the way it should because we don't really sympathize with Woman I. However, "Take the World Away" a haunting ballad which her character sings earlier in the show, was for me the number that worked best. Woman I sings it to Man as he sleeps after they've made love. The moment was poignant and real and I wish there had been more of them.

Sitting in the predominantly older crowd and eavesdropping on their comments, the consensus seemed to be that this show was "very cute". And it was quick and cute. But some audiences go to the theatre because they're hungry for something. Good theatre being like a good meal, whatever the writers dish out should satisfy us at least for the evening. But, unfortunately, this little show was like a bag of popcorn and I left the theatre feeling peckish.

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