Side By Side By Sondheim
Paul Johnson | 01 May 2012 15:41pm
Side By Side By Sondheim
As a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim I was looking forward to spending an enjoyable evening side by side other audience members at the Barn Theatre listening to the great man’s music, and I was not disappointed. Director Keith Thompson cast five consummate performers who delivered a wide range of Sondheim songs in the form of a revue. The material is taken from some of Stephen Sondheim’s best known work, and a few less familiar titles. Side By Side By Sondheim was originally conceived when David Kernan put together an evening of Sondheim songs as a cabaret concert in the seventies. From there it went to The Mermaid Theatre, Garrick Theatre and on to Broadway, where the entire British cast were nominated for Tony Awards. With no plot to tie the songs together, Ned Sherrin wrote and performed the narration. The narrator at the Barn production was Sondheim devotee, Clive Weatherley – one of the founder members of the Stephen Sondheim Society. Clive’s narration was both informative and well delivered – I particularly enjoyed the background information given as he introduced each set of songs. His enthusiasm and love of Sondheim shone through and contributed to the evening’s entertainment.
Now to the singers, and in comes company in the form of Dan Breeze, Rachel Dawson, Natalie Gordon, Maz Greenbank and Des Turner. In a celebration of this great lyricist they sang 28 tunes taken from shows Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Mad Show and Anyone Can Whistle, to name but a few. The song ‘Getting Married Today’ from Company is a challenge, however Natalie Gordon coped admirably, cantering through the rapid-fire patter without missing a beat and blending humour and pathos as Amy, a woman facing her doubts on the big day. Rachel Dawson did a wonderful job with the aria segments, and Dan Breeze was suitably earnest as Amy’s husband-to-be Paul. I enjoyed the humour of this piece. ‘I Remember’ is from a little known musical originally made for tv called Evening Primrose about a man who hides in a department store one night and discovers a secret community. One of my favourite Sondheim songs, it focuses on one of the store dwellers who has been in the shop from the age of six and tries to recall the sounds and sensations of the outside world. Des Turner sang this beautifully – his bass voice resonating and capturing the poignancy of Sondheim’s lyrics. Rachel Dawson, Maz Greenbank and Natalie Gordon closed Act One with a wonderful pastiche from Company called ‘You Could Drive A Person Crazy’ – angry at the way they have been treated by Bobby three of the women attack him through song. The lyrics are brilliant; “You’re crazy, you’re a loving person, you’re a moving, deeply maladjusted, never to be trusted, crazy person yourself.” A wonderful parody of the Andrew sisters and the precision timed Doo-doo-doos added to the comedy of this number. In Act two Rachel Dawson gave a lovely interpretation of the iconic song ‘Send In The Clowns’ from A Little Night Music. Miss Dawson and Miss Greenbank sang the duet ‘A Boy Like That’ from West Side Story and must be congratulated on their perfect Puerto Rican accents. This was yet another fine performance from both singers. ‘Could I Leave You’ was a song originally sung in the West End by Diana Rigg and was given a whole new interpretation by Des Turner to great comic effect. The ensemble concluded the evening with 27 more songs arranged as a musical medley by Musical Director Malcolm Dorling. Throughout the evening’s entertainment Mr Dorling and Christine Newman had accompanied the singers faultlessly on grand pianos, playing some of the composer’s most innovative and haunting music – it was an utter joy to listen to. Director Keith Thompson is to be congratulated for bringing Sondheim to the Barn Theatre. His cast brought humour and pathos in appropriate measure to the songs. I am a huge fan of Sondheim and thoroughly enjoyed Side By Side By Sondheim, as did the audience who showed their appreciation of the excellent music.
- : admin
- : 19/04/2012