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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

The Stephen Schwartz Project

The Stephen Schwartz Project
The Cast
Stephen Schwartz has been writing music, lyrics or both for stage and screen for more than three decades; his hits range chronologically from Godspell in 1971 to Wicked, still running on Broadway after its opening in 2003. Director and choreographer Michael J. Bobbitt collaborated with Schwartz to create The Stephen Schwartz Project, the spirited 90-minute revue now at MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bobbitt worked with arranger John L. Cornelius II to present Schwartz's songs in a new way. "Day by Day," probably his most familiar song, gets refreshed with a bossa nova beat and lyrics in several non-English languages, while "Defying Gravity," his blockbuster from Wicked, is paired with the thematically similar, but 30 years older, "Corner of the Sky" from Pippin.

The nine cast members are all crackerjack singers and dancers, but at first they have to struggle against Emily Dere's self-consciously quirky costumes. Kerry Deitrick wears a sheer, sequined mini-skirt over black spandex bike shorts; Florrie Bagel wears similar bike shorts under her black-and-white dress; and Amber Moorer wears a take-off on a field hockey uniform, complete with short pleated skirt and knee-high gym socks.

The sleek and vivacious Curry must stand as first among equals in the cast, whether she's leading the gospel rouser "Ain't It Good?" (from the biblical musical Children of Eden) or playing around with two men and a riding crop in "Lion Tamer" (from 1974's The Magic Show). Other standouts are the poised Jobari Parker-Namdar, whose smooth vocal style illuminates "Cold Enough to Snow" (from the movie Life with Mikey), and Bagel, who gives a warm rendition of "Since I Gave My Heart Away" (from the television musical Geppetto).

Beyond their solo numbers, the performers work together with great ease and polish. Bobbitt uses his ensemble in a variety of styles, from the combative street-inspired moves of the opening, "The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden, to the deconstruction of Bob Fosse's style for "On the Right Track" from Pippin and a boisterous silent-movie vignette of hookers and thieves set to a medley of "Good Time Ladies Rag" from Pippin and "All for the Best" from Godspell. They all receive enthusiastic and skillful support from the six-piece band fronted by conductor Doug Bowles.

MetroStage
The Stephen Schwartz Project
April 10th May 25th
Conceived, directed, and choreographed by Michael J. Bobbitt
Cast: Florrie Bagel, Priscilla Cuellar, Felicia Curry, Kerry Deitrick, Benjamin Horen, Amber Moorer, Jobari Parker-Namdar, Andrew Sonntag, Clif Walker
Musical arrangements by John L. Cornelius II
Musical direction by Doug Bowles
1201 N. Royal St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Ticket Information: 703-548-9044 or www.metrostage.org


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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