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April 11, 2017 > Sondheim revue a perfect gem

Sondheim revue a perfect gem

By Julie Grabowski

Anyone who likes a good musical has most assuredly experienced the work of Stephen Sondheim. A benchmark in American musical theatre, Sondheim is the Pulitzer, Tony, and Academy Award-winning composer and lyricist of such shows as ÒWest Side Story,Ó ÒGypsy,Ó ÒSweeney Todd,Ó and ÒInto the Woods.Ó

A musical revue featuring SondheimÕs earlier work premiered in 1976, titled ÒSide by Side by SondheimÓ after the song ÒSide by Side by SideÓ from ÒCompanyÓ (1970). Featuring three singers and a narrator, the revue covers 30 songs including those popular, unfamiliar, and a few that didnÕt make the cut, interspersed with informative bits about Sondheim and the songs, as well as some recited segments from his shows. While the leading man, Sondheim is not the spotlightÕs sole recipient here: his collaborations with musical giants Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, and Jule Styne are inescapable.

ÒCompany,Ó which explores adult relationships through the eyes of a bachelor and his married friends, and ÒFolliesÓ (1971), about the reunion of performers at their old theater that is facing demolition, are well represented with eight songs each. ÒA Little Night MusicÓ and ÒPacific OverturesÓ are also features from the Ô70s. ÒWest Side StoryÓ and ÒGypsyÓ mark the 1950s, and the Ô60s weigh in with songs from ÒA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,Ó ÒAnyone Can Whistle,Ó ÒDo I Hear A Waltz?Ó and the TV musical ÒEvening Primrose.Ó

This bevy of musical treats is currently on offer at HaywardÕs Douglas Morrisson Theatre (DMT) in a not-to-be-missed production. Director/Choreographer Michael Ryken has assembled a wonderful cast of talented and expressive performers that bring every word and note into full bloom. Jenny Matteucci, Tielle Baker, and Brian Couch compliment the music and each other, playing the heart, humor, and fun of Sondheim to the hilt. Christine Macomber is a warm and natural narrator who gives the feeling of an inclusive, engaging story time, and is also pleasing in her musical forays.

Each song is a little story that is fully expressed by its singers, and not one in the lineup fails to please. Matteucci adeptly handles the frantic, tongue twisting ÒGetting Married Today,Ó while BakerÕs operatic insertions are impressive and pitch perfect. Matteucci gets the laughs in ÒThe Boy FromÉÓ and is moving in one of the eveningÕs ballads, the famous ÒSend in the Clowns.Ó

Baker is a vocal powerhouse and magnetic personality and shines throughout. ÒBroadway BabyÓ and the role of Maria in ÒA Boy Like ThatÓ from ÒWest Side StoryÓ are a few notables, and thereÕs that little number from ÒGypsyÓ where a part of her costume makes her Òelectrifying without even trying.Ó

Couch has an unassuming charm and is excellent in ÒMarry Me A LittleÓ and ÒBuddyÕs Blues.Ó
Macomber gets delightfully saucy with ÒI Never Do Anything TwiceÓ written for the film ÒThe Seven-Per-Cent Solution,Ó and really commits with a trumpet in ÒYou Gotta Get A Gimmick.Ó

ÒCan That Boy FoxtrotÓ is hilarious in the hands of Matteucci and Baker, and the ÒConversation PieceÓ medley with the three vocalists is a fantastically fun and playful highlight. Whether solo or together, these performers are rock solid and deliver an evening of sheer delight from top to bottom.

Musical Director Dean Starnes is also the man behind the piano, the only accompanying instrument in the show, who easily proves the simple ivories are all that is needed.

Costume DesignerÊDaisy Neske-Dickerson provides elegant evening wear with just the right amount of sparkle. The bare-bones staging looks all dressed up as well thanks to scenic designer Alexandra KranyakÕs colorful floral spray curving across the stage floor in blooms of pink and purple. It is pleasing statement piece that, with a few coordinating designs on the backdrop curtain, requires nothing more to set the stage.

Whether new to Sondheim or a well-versed fan, DMTÕs ÒSide by Side by SondheimÓ is an inarguable gem that will light up your evening and keep shining well into the days ahead.

Side by Side by Sondheim
Friday, Apr 7 Ð Sunday, Apr 23
8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.
Saturday, Apr 15 at 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.
Douglas Morrisson Theatre
22311 N. Third St, Hayward
(510) 881-6777
Tickets: $15 Ð $29

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