Showing posts with label Sondheim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sondheim. Show all posts

Sunday, April 14, 2019

A Musical Week


It’s our universal language and while the political discourse is discordant, music seems to bring out our commonalities.  Our favorite musical genres are songs from Broadway, the Great American Songbook, and Jazz and so it was with much anticipation that we looked forward to last week which began with a show at the Delray Beach Playhouse, I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser.

Ann arranged a preshow dinner at Racks Fish House off Delray’s famous (and congested) Atlantic Avenue, a happening place.  It was a balmy early April evening, with a nice breeze so we dined al fresco.  Imagine our surprise reading the appetizer menu which included Copps Island, CT oysters!  Copps Island which is connected at low tide to Crow Island is where we have taken our boat for the last 35 years during the summers, anchoring there on weekends.  So here we were, some 1,250 miles away dining on wild oysters from those very waters.  These are bottom planted as opposed to cage or floating trays and the oysters are known for “sweet briny flavor and plump meats. “  It was a nice and nostalgic start to the evening.

Delray Beach Playhouse which opened in 1947 is a community theatre featuring everything from one person acts to full scale plays.  They have a dedicated audience, we now among them.  But who knew, the playhouse is on Lake Ida, a fresh water lake right off of I95, comprising 121 acres, but seeming much larger than that as it is long and narrow.  Looking at it is reminiscent of our days on Lake George in NY and Candlewood Lake in CT as one can see similar boat houses and lake front homes.

I Believe in You! – The Songs of Frank Loesser was narrated by Randolph DelLago who has been the Resident Artistic Director of the Playhouse since 1982.  He also sings in this production.  When one thinks of Frank Loesser, one recalls the iconic Guys and Dolls, one of the great classic musicals of Broadway’s Golden Era.  It perhaps has more recognizable songs than any other musical, including those of Rogers and Hammerstein.  He only wrote four other musicals, The Most Happy Fella and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, being the most notable.  Songs were performed from all of these with original still scenes projected on a backdrop.  The Most Happy Fella has one of the most moving rhapsodic opera style songs ever written for the Great White Way, “My Heart is So Full of You,” one of my favorites for the piano, with an exotic bridge section of eight bars.

But Loesser, who was cast out by his family as they thought “songwriting” was beneath their dignity (his father was a piano teacher and his brother was a classical piano prodigy), found his roots in popular song in Hollywood before migrating to Broadway.  There are many memorable songs he wrote for The Great American Songbook and this show had many, such as “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You,” “Heart and Soul,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” “Two Sleepy People,”“Baby, It’s Cold Outside,”“No Two People,” and “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” (the latter being another personal piano favorite of mine).  Along with DelLago, performances were given by Alicia Branch-Stafford, a soprano, baritone William Stafford, and Hanz Eneart who added a little cabaret dancing to the show as well as joining the ensemble in song with a comedic rendition of” Once in Love with Amy.”

Breaking up the week was a trip to Peanut Island with my friend John, a destination on the boat which will become more frequent as the water warms to bathtub temperatures.  Amazing that at one time in my life, jumping into the waters off of Copps Island into 70 degree water was refreshing but now wadding into Peanut’s current 79 degree water seems difficult!  Maybe that’s because the air temperature on Thursday was in the high 80s.  Got home late in the afternoon, just in time to clean the boat with John, shower, and get ready to go to the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

There we saw West Side Story towards the end of its run, so I am not publishing a full review.  This is what the Maltz Theatre does best but, still, we were a little concerned about seeing this yet again.  Could it still possibly be fresh (although the music by Bernstein and lyrics by Sondheim are immortal)?

The short answer is a resounding yes!  I think some of the classic musicals are being looked at in a new light, due to the times and the influence of Hamilton.  Most recently this is apparent with the Circle in the Square’s current production of Oklahoma which some have criticized as a travesty, irreverent to Rogers and Hammerstein’s intent.  I’m not too sure, although that was my knee jerk reaction.  Now, thinking about it, and reading more about it, I’m willing to be persuaded and therefore we’re going to see it sometime in August.  I’ll be lining up for the chili and corn bread!

There is a dark side to Oklahoma, as in all of the R&H plays.  Just think of Billy Bigalow’s corruptibility in Carousel, or the racial tensions of South Pacific and The King and I, the lurking Nazi shadows in The Sound of Music.  These musicals were played out for the audiences of their times with relatively happy resolutions (just what was expected then).  One could cast them now in an entirely different light and why not?

In a sense, the Maltz’s interpretation of West Side Story has been so influenced.  A framing device of Hurricane Maria has been introduced.  How ironic is that, the Maria of the story picking up after Hurricane Maria, alone with her memories of Tony?  This scene reprises at the end of the show.  It was a lovely, moving touch, particularly in the light of how this terrible storm has been politicized.

And with Puerto Rican born Marcos Santana’s direction and musical staging, we have more of a take on the Sharks rather than the Jets.  The hell-bent fury of xenophobic victimization is explosively probed by Angel Lozada who plays Bernardo.  Michelle Alves performance as Anita is more than up to the easily remembered performance of Chita Rivera in that part.  Alves is every bit as dynamic as a dancer and is a very talented vocalist as well.

Not enough praise can be directed toward Jim Schubin who plays Tony and Evy Ortiz as Maria.  Schubin brings a strong sense of constant optimism and wonder to the role as well as a clear tenor voice.  Ortiz is the ideal Maria, a soprano and coloratura who is radiant in the role of Maria (she was recently on the West Side Story national tour).  They had the perfect chemistry as Tony and Maria and their duets soared.

The choreography by Al Blackstone (with additional choreography by the director), gives a hat tip to Jerome Robbins’ choreography but is original and pulsating on the Maltz stage.  It’s a smaller cast than the original musical, but one would not know it.

With the refugee crisis of our times, it was time to look at West Side Story through a different lens, and the Maltz comes through. 

And last night we attended the 1st Palm Beach International Jazz Festival, the first, we hope, of many in the future.  It is the idea of one of South Florida’s premier jazz singers, Yvette Norwood-Tiger, who has traveled the world with her interpretations of jazz classics, particularly songs sung by Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.  She performs in six languages including English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Xhosa.

She created an afternoon and evening performance with different groups and singers.  We attended the evening performance and thus my comments are confined to that.

First up was Marlow Rosado, a Latin Jazz pianist from Puerto Rico, and his group.  Rasado is a salsero, and is imposing at the piano with his driving salsa rhythms, somewhat reminiscent of Monte Alexander.  I said to Ann that I’ve never seen a pianist who could pass as a football tight end and the physicality of his performance spoke wonders.  He posted last night’s performance on Facebook, so you can catch him there.
 
Next up was Eric & The Jazzers, a South Florida group of professional musicians that play swing/bebop from the great era of Duke Ellington.  Eric Trouillot also served as MC for the night’s performances, a guy from the Bronx who brought out the best of the very well represented NYC crowd (including us).

His group’s trumpet player, Yamin Mustafa, is one of the best we’ve heard and pianist, Chad Michaels, obviously has studied Oscar Peterson’s technique closely. As Mustafa said, the group’s musical selections are eclectic.

But the star of the night was clearly the evening’s organizer, Yvette Norwood-Tiger.  Yvette is a survivor of a benign yet life-threatening brain tumor because of its size and position, but had a successful operation some seven years ago.  Every time we’ve seen her she encourages the audience to “find that door opening” and for her it is singing Horace Silver’s jazz classic "Song for My Father."  Naturally, Yvette means it quite literally, thanking God for the opportunity to continue on with her unique gifts, a powerful yet sometimes subtle interpreter of the Great American Songbook. 

Backing her up musically were all the “old gang” we see almost every Sunday night at Double Roads in Jupiter, her musical director for the evening and oh-so talented pianist, also the co founder of the Jupiter Jazz Society, Rick Moore.  Along with Rick were Marty Gilman, on sax and flute, Joshua Ewers on bass and Michael Mackey on trumpet.  Marty is a multitalented musician who can play a large number of instruments at the professional level and we watched Joshua and Michael while they were still in high school, and have now grown into professional musicians in their own right.

And to bring this entry back to where it began (remember, Copps Island, in the Norwalk CT chain of islands), I learned that Horace Silver (Yvette’s tribute composer), was born in Norwalk, CT so it seems that all roads lead back to our years there.







Saturday, August 5, 2017

Life is COMPANY, Sondheim’s Classic



Bobby.../ Bobby.../ Bobby baby.../ Bobby bubi.../ Robby.../ Robert darling.../ Bobby, we've been trying to call you…

This is my favorite Sondheim musical.  Yes, it’s dated, but it’s been updated.  Yes, it doesn’t measure up in some ways to some of his later works, but it stands on its own. 

So, why do I feel this way?  I think it is THE breakout musical for Sondheim, for which he wrote both the lyrics and music (not his first time, but his most successful first time).  It set the stage for everything that followed in American musical theatre.  His intricate scoring, the deep emotional, dramatic and comic connections, his ability to merge words and music, anoint him as our very own Shakespeare of the American musical stage. 

So we set off to see the MNM Production at the Rinker Playhouse which is part of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, albeit late in the production run.   Therefore I was able to see what some of my “fellow” critics had to say about the show, which I would characterize as being lukewarm, one even unfairly comparing it to the Dramaworks’ Sweeney Todd production which is concurrently playing nearby.  Such a comparison is apples to oranges (although Dramaworks’ production is the best Sweeney Todd that we’ve ever seen).  One is more like opera and the other is like a cabaret revue.  

This is a high, high energy production and MNM Production’s mission is to bring Florida’s own reservoir of considerable talent to the stage.  These are all local professionals and we who live in South Florida have to applaud and support such an effort.  Many of the cast we’ve seen before, predominately at Dramaworks.  They are highly experienced and most of the cast have great voices and terrific comic timing.

Company is also squarely set in New York City in 1970, the year Ann and I married and we were still living there.  So it speaks very directly to me.  It is not his very first NYC focused work.  His musical, Saturday night about City life (which is rarely performed) was written by him in the mid 1950s when he was just developing his craft.  It never opened at the time as the producer died.  It finally was performed in the late 1990s after Sondheim was THE name on Broadway.

Company rose out of a number of one act plays written by George Firth and was brought together by Sondheim, morphing the main character – outsiders in each -- into one person, “Bobby.”  It utilizes a series of connected songs that underscore the main theme: the foibles of marriage.  For its time it was revolutionary as so many of Sondheim musicals have continued to be.

It's the story of Bobby the bachelor who is conflicted about being married versus the stories of his friends who have problematic marriages as well as his girlfriends who have issues of their own.  Bobby is plainly confused.  It hangs out there like unresolved anxiety, right to the end.

As it was based on a series of plays that spoke for themselves, the music Sondheim wrote is not in the classic move-the-plot-along variety.  As he himself said "the only effective approach I could come up with was quasi-Brechtian songs which either commented on the action, like "Barcelona" – but never be PART of the action. They had to be the opposite of what Oscar [Hammerstein] had trained me to write, even though he himself had experimented with songs of that kind in Allegro.  I decided to hold the score together through subject matter: all the songs deal either with marriage or in one sense or another, New York City."

In reflecting on the musical in his book Finishing the Hat, he said "Chekhov wrote ‘if you are afraid of loneliness don't marry.’ Luckily I didn't come across that till long after 'Company' had been produced.  Chekhov said in seven words what it took George and me two years and two and a half hours to say less profoundly.  If I’d read that sentence, I am not sure we would have dared to write the show, and we might have been denied the exhilarating experience of exploring what he said for ourselves."

That’s the back-story to this groundbreaking musical, one that explores the loneliness of love relationships, and the importance of friends, in the most vibrant metropolis of its time.  We move through the “approach-avoidance” complex of marriage through a series of songs, so many of them now classics, and several incorporated in the widely performed Sondheim revue, Side by Side by Sondheim.

As some of the critical reviews pointed out, the actor who plays Bobby does not have an exceptional singing voice, and he has to sing some of the more moving songs, “Someone Is Waiting," “Marry Me a Little,” and "Being Alive," but he carries these on the shoulders of his acting abilities and we enjoyed his performance.  He is also supported by some of the finest singers in South Florida and so much of the show is ensemble singing and then solos or duets by Bobby’s friends and girlfriends.

The four couples in the play (Joanne and Larry. Peter and Susan, Jenny and David, and Harry and Sarah) knock it out of the park with "The Little Things You Do Together," an acerbic rebuke about marital relationships.  The husbands meanwhile leeringly hover over Bobby, singling "Have I Got A Girl for You" in the first and second acts.

There are several real show-stopping moments in this production:  Amy’s riotous, “Getting Married Today," Marta’s “Another Hundred People," capturing the city’s sense of alienation with gusto, and Joanne’s stinging, cynical piece about the empty lives of affluent women in the city, "The Ladies Who Lunch."  His girlfriends, Marta, April, and Kathy, critique his non-committal ways in a hilarious pastiche of a sister act song in “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.”

One of my favorite songs from the show is “Sorry – Grateful,” expressing the ambivalence of marriage, sung by Bobby’s friends, Harry,  David, and Larry when Bobby asks Harry whether he was ever sorry he got married.  It’s a perfectly measured argument, lyrically, and expressed in a waltz like rhythm.  I’m not going to include all the lyrics, but here is an excerpt, classic Sondheim: You're sorry-grateful / Regretful-happy / Why look for answers / Where none occur?  My own piano interpretation, in the less than ideal recording environment of my living room, can be seen / heard here.

Every song in the show is timeless and every performer brings his / her best to the stage in their delivery. Here is the extraordinary cast:

Robert        Robert William Johnston*
Sarah          Laura Hodos*
Harry         Wayne LeGette*
Susan         Amy Miller Brennan*
Peter          Clay Cartland
Jenny         Lindsey Corey*
David        Joshua McKinney
Amy          Leah Sessa
Paul           Josh Kolb
Joanne       Erika Scotti*
Larry         Larry Alexander*
Marta        Mallory Newbrough
Kathy        Jinon Deeb
April.        Nicole Kinzel 

*Denotes a member of Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States.

Bruce Linser demonstrates his considerable directing skills in this production, accentuating the comedic elements (e.g Sarah’s karate exhibition and her secret food addiction) and, with Kimberly Dawn Smith’s choreography, brings out the best of the energetic, ensemble pieces such as “Side By Side By Side” in the second act.  

Set design by Tim Bennett gives the director and cast a main stage to work on and five different platforms, sometimes all of them being utilized at the same time.  The set suggests the isolated nature of city life and the 70’s, although it is creatively brought into the present by Linser having his cast use the ubiquitous cell phone, replacing the answering machine.

The musical accompaniment is first rate, Paul Reekie directing four other musicians while playing the piano.  This is the kind of theatre that merits our appreciation and support in the future.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Stirring Production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd at Dramaworks



When one of the finest regional theatres presents the preeminent work of the greatest living Broadway lyricist and composer (arguably the best ever), we can expect to experience a performance work of art that will be long remembered.  Such is Dramaworks’ production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. It packs such an emotional wallop that the stunned audience left exiting, “wow,” after a standing ovation.

Even though Sweeney Todd flopped on Broadway and the West End when it first opened in 1979 -- critics and the public were not prepared for the bizarre subject matter and Sondheim’s treatment of it in a musical -- the show has become one of his most frequently performed on all levels ranging from expurgated school productions to full-scale professional theatres.  As Sondheim himself commented, if you give an audience a good story, especially an extravagant one, they’ll accept it with pleasure, no matter how bizarre, and idiosyncratic it might be.

Although the plot is fairly well known, a brief summary might be helpful.  The story itself, which can be traced in various English publications going back to the mid 19th century, is based on “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”  Sondheim saw a retelling of the tale in a 1973 play by Christopher Bond in London and it immediately struck him as material for a musical horror story.

In Sondheim’s version, Sweeney Todd, AKA as the barber Benjamin Barker, has been ruined by Judge Turpin who coveted his wife, Lucy and stole her away by banishing Barker to Botany Bay for life.  But Barker, now under the cloak of a new name, Sweeney Todd, eventually returns to London with the help of Anthony Hope, a young, good natured sailor he befriends.  Todd has one overwhelming yearning aside from escape: retribution.

He sets up a barbershop over Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop -- known for making the worst pies in London.  She is aware of Todd’s past and tells him that his wife, Lucy, had taken poison and their daughter, Johanna, was adopted by the Judge, becoming his ward.  His quest for retribution is intensified.  Little does he know that Mrs. Lovett has her own designs on him, hoping they will ultimately become lovers and has twisted the truth to her own advantage.

Todd challenges Adolfo Pirelli who claims to be "the king of the barbers, the barber of kings" to a contest to inveigle the Judge into his shop. Ultimately, Pirelli becomes the first of Todd’s victims and ingredient in one of Mrs. Lovett’s new, much celebrated ”meat pies.”

Judge Turpin’s attention to Johanna turns from regarding her as his ward to wanting her for his wife.  Anthony, the young sailor, has developed an intense love interest in Johanna as well.  Meanwhile, Mrs. Lovett and Todd are grinding people from all walks of life as their pie enterprise flourishes.

These story lines converge with the death of many of the major characters, sparing the young lovers, Anthony and Johanna, and Tobias Ragg, Pirelli’s assistant who is devoted to Mrs. Lovett.

That’s as brief as I can make it, but this musical is, oh, so much more.  It is genius every step of the way demonstrating Sondheim’s cardinal rules: Content Dictates Form; Less Is More; God is in the Details – all in the service of – Clarity.  

Shane R. Tanner and Company in Sweeney Todd Photo by Cliff Burgess

The very opening line of the show’s first number “The Ballard of Sweeney Todd” is “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.”  Simple enough?  Here’s Sondheim’s take:  If ever there was an example of "God is in the details," it's the line that opens this show: "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd." Detail 1: the use of "attend" to mean "listen to" is just archaic enough to tell the audience that this will be a period piece. Detail 2: the idea of a "tale" suggests that the audience not take the story realistically but as a fable, and opens them up to accept the bizarrerie of the events which follow; it also promises a story that will unfold like a folk ballad, foreshadowing the numerous choruses of the song that will pop up during the course of the evening. Detail 3: the alliteration on the first, second and fourth accented beats of "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd" is not only a microcosm of the AABA form of the song itself, but in its very formality gives the line a sinister feeling, especially with the sepulchral accompaniment that rumbles underneath it.

Sondheim is the consummate artist, approaching every lyric, every note in this gorgeous “black operetta” with the same level of thought and detail.  Interestingly, Sondheim’s antipathy for opera led him to construct it mainly as song forms, something between a musical and a ballad opera.  His love of background music in film, and he has scored several, became infused in the music.  Lyrics were a challenge and he decided to invent some colloquialisms to go along with British ones he knew. 

There are a number of chorus numbers, their role ranging from serving as a Greek Chorus and as provocateurs moving the action along.  Sondheim rejects the notion that all people in a chorus will be singing the same thought in harmony.  Thus, chorus and duet numbers in the work can have different overlapping lyrics but all in perfect sync with the music (although, alas, and this does not distract from the overall achievement, not every single word can be heard or assimilated).  

Dramaworks’ interpretation relies on the deft hand of the Director, Clive Cholerton, and the equally important musical director Manny Schvartzman, making his PBD debut.  Cholerton directed the enormously successful 1776, last year’s musical offering from Dramaworks but by his own admission, Sweeney Todd is his favorite show.  Thus, he found it a bit daunting to finally have the opportunity to direct it.  Some previous versions had Sweeney as a crazed mass murderer at the onset, but his vision was to have Sweeney arrive bitter and angry from prison, but not a murderer out of the gate. 

His take came more clearly into view working with the costume designer, Brian O’Keefe, whose idea was to make a strong costume statement -- a “steam punk” look, almost science fiction, a post apocalyptic world (although still strongly grounded in 19th century England).  O’Keefe is also reaching to younger audiences with this gothic but futuristic feel to it -- or perhaps even a contemporary spin given the current political zeitgeist.  The costumes are simply astonishing, from Mrs. Lovett’s seductive lacy top with the tightly strung corset to Johanna’s virginal gowns and nightdresses to Beadle Bamford’s sinister black boots, menacing cudgel and flowing overcoats.

Schvartzman successfully works with the inherent complexity of Sondheim’s music, blending the cast seamlessly with the score and wringing out every drop of color and emotion Sondheim has poured into the work.  He is also the talented pianist and conductor of the show, along with an orchestra of five, including himself.  He clearly achieves his objective of providing the same support as a larger orchestra, hitting every note Sondheim intended.

Shane Tanner returns to the Dramaworks’ musical stage, having last appeared in 1776, this time in the title role of Sweeney.  Tanner is well known for a wide range of musicals, including Sondheim’s Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, and Assassins.   He makes a critical transition when he crosses the line from merely plotting one person’s murder to becoming a mass murderer with ghoulish composure.  Beware of the razor in his hand.  It is the ultimate equalizer of classes.  Tanner’s performance starts with despair and lack of hope, gradually escalating to rage and the audience feels that steady spiral to its core.  He is a Sweeney to be remembered.

Ruthie Stephens in Sweeney Todd Photo by Cliff Burgess

Ruthie Stephens as Mrs. Lovett twists everything in her lust for Todd.  We root in many ways for Lovett and Sweeney as they grind up aristocrats along with everyone else, “Those crunching noises pervading the air?.....It’s man devouring man, my dear.”  Stephens focus is on Mrs. Lovett’s role as an opportunist and as Stephens is from the UK, she expertly capitalizes on the very Brit humor of the part.  Her clarion voice and performance were stunning and when she is on the stage, your eyes never leave her.

The lovely Johanna is central to all the major characters in the work, the Judge lustily desiring her, Lovett wanting her out of the way, Todd trying to protect her, Anthony loving her.  This key soprano role is played by Jennifer Molly Bell.  She is as radiant as her namesake song in the show, “Johanna.”   Bell effectively communicates what it feels like to be a bird trapped in a cage, longing for escape.

Michael McKenzie and Shane R. Tanner in Sweeney Todd Photo by Cliff Burgess

Michael McKenzie, as Judge Turpin, makes a strong case for the Judge being “misunderstood” yet unable to tame his emotions – although by banishing Todd to seduce his wife and claim his child makes him decidedly villainous.  His scene of self-flagellation singing a new verse of Johanna as he voyeuristically peers at his ward is unforgettable.  By the time he finally succumbs under Todd’s razor (the first such attempt going amiss), the audience is as ripe for revenge as Todd.

The good-natured, madly-in-love with Johanna, Anthony Hope, is performed by Paul Louis Lessard (PBD debut) whose tenor voice soars in his numbers.  When Lessard first sings “Johanna” he demonstrates that Sondheim can write a genuinely beautiful love song.  The song is sung in several iterations in the show.  It was one of Sondheim’s favorite’s --   writing songs like these not only appeals to my instinct for intricate plotting, it makes me feel like a playwright, even if the plays are only six or seven minutes long.  Lessard captures Anthony’s sensitivity and determination to have his lovebird.

My own favorite songs from the show, aside from “Joanna,” are “Pretty Women” sung by Todd and the Judge when the Judge is first in the barber’s chair, and the ghoulishly hilarious “A Little Priest,” sung by Mrs. Lovett and Todd which brings the curtain down on the first act.  I might also add “Not While I’m Around,” a beautiful ballad sung by Evan Jones who plays Tobias Ragg (PBD debut) and then is joined by Mrs. Lovett.  It’s an unusual number as it mixes both warmth (Tobias’ take) and evil (Mrs. Lovett’s plotting as she sings).

PBD veteran of many shows, Jim Ballard plays Beadle Bamford, Judge Turpin’s thug and partner in crime.  Ballard’s portrayal is the personification of evil and brutality and that characterization combined with his strong voice left an indelible impression.

Rounding out the cast are Alex Mansoori as Pirelli (PBD debut), Shelley Keelor as the Beggar Woman / Lucy, and the rest of the ensemble, Terry Hardcastle, Christopher Holloway (PBD debut), Hannah Richter (PBD debut), and Victoria Lauzun (PBD debut).  All have fine, powerful, operetta quality voices which enhance this production.


Michael Amico’s scenic design captures the drab factory-like industrial conceit with the worn paneling and the large overhead windows, for letting in light or the color red, symbolizing blood at the appropriate times.  It functions perfectly for the action and atmosphere.

Lighting design is by Donald Edmund Thomas. There are some 380 lighting changes (with as many as 8-10 in a minute), dividing the stage into 22 lighting sections so lights can follow the action.  The lighting has an appropriately grungy feel to it with shadows streaming across the stage.

Sound design is by Brad Pawlak who puts the focus on the music itself as well as a well -timed screeching whistle at emotional peaks.

This PBD production of Sondheim’s masterpiece haunts, staged by a team of professionals worthy of Broadway.  It is a powerful, stunning performance, not to be missed.

Sondheim’s comments are from Stephen Sondheim: Finishing the Hat; Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2010)