International City Theater opens its 37th season celebrating the works of Stephen Sondheim

If you are a fan of musicals like “West Side Story,” “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” or “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum,” then you are very familiar with the works of the late Stephen Sondheim, who died Nov. 26.

Before his passing, the International City Theater was already casting the leads for “Marry Me a Little,” which features the words of Sondheim. Now the musical has even more meaning as the ICT kicks off its 37th season, opening at the Beverly O’Neill Theater in Long Beach on Feb. 11.

The play is a cast of two, simply named “man and woman,” which allows the actors to put a lot of their personalities into the role.

Katy Tang, who plays the female lead, has been acting since she was a child. However, she took a break to become a competitive ice skater, and after studying music and acting in college, she made her way back.  She also does student outreach that exposes children to opera, and even teaches children the craft.  Her diverse background allows her to add a lot to a nondescript role.

Both Tang and musical director and pianist Diane King Vann were drawn to this production because of the complexity and style of Sondheim: “It’s basically a review, with this story woven in,” King Vann said.

She explains that it is not a written story, but through the staging and direction of Director Kari Hayter, the story is created.

Tang calls this production a musical play. Although this is a true musical with not a single word spoken, she says the acting helps tell the story and gives it the feel of a play.  Opposite Tang is Nick Tubbs, who plays a man who lives in the same apartment building as the woman (Tang) he has never met.  Even though they don’t know each other, they share a similar story.

King Vann said the music in “Marry Me a Little,” is extremely difficult.  Often the music she is playing will have an entirely different structure than what the actors are singing. “Having incredible performers makes my job a lot easier,” she says.

She went on to say what she loves about Sondheim music is, “it’s so rich in texture musically and lyrically.”

Tang echoed that sentiment and said that she was not cast for the play until after Sondheim had passed.  “I remember tearing up a bit,” she said,  “because this is really special that I get to work on this not-so-often done piece by Sondheim.”

The play is only one hour long and features songs written early in Sondheim’s career or cut from his groundbreaking Broadway musicals.  “Marry Me a Little” runs Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., beginning on Feb. 11 through Feb. 27. For more information and to purchase tickets, go here.

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Jackie Rae is a multimedia reporter for the Long Beach Post who joined in May 2021.
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