Wispy? Wistful? Just trying to find the right word to describe Little by Little, an intimate three-person musical receiving its local premiere at South Park Theatre. The show did open off-Broadway in 1999, so to explain why it’s taken 17 years to reach Pittsburgh, we might also use such words as wishy-washy and wan.
It’s harsh coming down so hard on Little by Little, since it’s been crafted for no other reason than to impart a general feeling of contentment.
Brad Ross wrote the music, Ellen Greenfield and Hal Hackady the lyrics, with Greenfield and Annette Jolles supplying the book. It’s about three people, one man and two women — known as “Man,” “Woman 1” and “Woman 2.” They’re childhood friends, but things get tricky when, as adults, Man and Woman 1 fall in love while Woman 2, also in love with Man, has to watch from the sidelines.
So it’s a two-act, three-person musical about a love triangle. Greenfield and Jolles might have said something new about unrequited love, or created characters not best described as “generic.” Greenfield and Hackady might have written clever, inventive lyrics not rooted in a “June/moon/spoon” style. Ross might have written a score with either catchy “show tunes” or Sondheim experimentation. But none of them have done any of that — and with all three coming up empty-handed, the evening, while not terrible, never raises any interest.
Nick Mitchell directs and Kirk Howe is the musical director for the pleasant South Park Theatre production. There’s not much more you can do with a show like this other than keep it moving, which they have. Jamie Pasquinelli, Stephanie Ottey and Ryan Kearney are our three little lovebirds and couldn’t be more likable. They’ve been given little to do by the writers yet manage to play at an amazing level of commitment. The high point of the evening is when they come together for the trio “If You Only Knew.”
I’m not sure whether there is an audience for remarkably uninvolving, vanilla musicals, but if there is, it’s a safe bet you’ll find them lapping up Little by Little at South Park.