Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Side by Side by Sondheim
Also see Susan's review of Cyrano
For Signature's production of Side by Side by Sondheim in its larger theater space, the MAX, director-choreographer Matthew Gardiner has created a dynamic ensemble out of three sparkling performersSherri L. Edelen, Nancy Anderson, and Matthew Scottand pianists Jon Kalbfleisch (also music director) and Gabriel Mangiante. The sampling of about 30 songs covers the period from 1957, when Sondheim contributed lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story, to Pacific Overtures (1976).
Each of the singers gets a showcase song or two. Anderson is the rare performer who can enunciate each word-heavy verse of "Getting Married Today" in a single breath while also shredding a bridal bouquet; she also delivers a wrenching "Losing My Mind" and a hilarious "The Boy From ...". Edelen's unadorned rendition of "Send in the Clowns" is quietly heartbreaking, especially following her bit of slapstick as a clumsy Follies girl. (Her rendition of "I Never Do Anything Twice" is fun, but the tempo is a bit too fast to allow the double entendres to land properly.) Scott reveals a soaring tenor voice in "Something's Coming" and "Being Alive."
Gardiner has also found some innovative ways to stage group numbers, from the two women wrestling over an oafish Scott in "Can That Boy Foxtrot!" to the three strutting their stuff to "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" and a small homage to director John Doyle's productions in which the actors double as musicians. The two pianists add sterling support throughout.
Misha Kachman's scenic design and Colin K. Bills' lighting design create a variety of performance spaces from the MAX stage, including a small forestage complete with footlights, an illuminated proscenium arch, and a couple of platforms. The central design motif is scattered pages of musical manuscript hanging from Mylar curtains and scattered on the floor.