Elegies: A Song Cycle
Death is a fact of life that few care to think about. However, Tony Award winner William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain) faces it head on in his musical, Elegies: A Song Cycle. Now playing at Signature Theatre, the piece doesn’t just mourn the dead – it celebrates life.
Elegies is made up of a string of musical numbers about the people in Finn’s life. There are songs about friends, family and even the numerous dogs he has owned. The songs differ in style. Some are comedic, some uplifting and others are poignant. Anyone who has attended a family holiday celebration will enjoy “Passover.” And it is impossible not to be moved by “Saying My Goodbyes” and “Boom Boom,” Finn’s heartrending reminder of the many losses that occurred on 9/11.
The show has a very sound structure. However, some references may be a bit too “inside” for those who are not steeped in theater culture. Finn mentions several theatrical figures, one of whom is Joe Papp. It is hopeful that most audience members would be familiar with the legendary producer. However, there may be some Washington theatergoers who are not familiar with composers Ricky Ian Gordon and Jack Eric Williams. Fortunately, the folks at Signature had the foresight it add a Who’s Who list to the show program.
One doesn’t really need to know who these people are. Finn is introducing them to us in his own musical way. Carrying out this task is a group of incredibly gifted performers. The ensemble includes Sherri L. Edelen, Will Gartshore, Larry D. Hylton, Donna Migliaccio, and Michael Sharp. None of them are strangers to the Washington theater scene. Edelen, Gartshore, Sharp and Migliaccio all took part in the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration and all five cast members have performed at Signature in the past.
Larry D. Hylton, Michael Sharp, Donna Migliaccio,
Sherri L. Edelen and Will Gartshore
The entire ensemble performs the score beautifully. They complement each other well. This group also proves to be excellent actors. Each one breaths life into the songs they sing. Michael Sharp is open and engaging while singing “Mark’s All-Male Thanksgiving” and Sherri L. Edelen delivers a wonderful performance of “Anytime.” Larry D. Hylton is very entertaining during “Joe Papp.” His cast mate, Will Gartshore is incredibly funny as he performs “My Dog.” Finally, Donna Migliaccio gives a powerhouse performance of “Infinite Joy.”
Directed by Joe Calarco, the piece has an unearthly quality that works well. The show moves effortlessly from one number to the next and the cast is used to its advantage. James Kronzer’s set of a single wooden door standing in the darkness is simple but moving. The lighting by Chris Lee accompanies it perfectly.
Elegies touches on a hard subject but it also forces one to recognize the value of those most important to us. Signature has done an outstanding job of communicating this show’s message. Elegies: A Song Cycle runs through May 9th.
The Signature Theatre