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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Side by Side by Sondheim

Also see Susan's review of Cyrano

Side by Side by Sondheim
Matthew Scott, Nancy Anderson and Sherri L. Edelen
When Side by Side by Sondheim opened on Broadway in 1977, Stephen Sondheim was not yet the musical theater eminence he is today, although he had already received Best Score Tony Awards in three successive years for Company (1971), Follies (1972), and A Little Night Music (1973). The original audiences for the revue, created by Ned Sherrin, couldn't know what was yet to come in the composer-lyricist's resplendent career—unlike the audience at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, which has had good results with Sondheim's works since its 1991 production of Sweeney Todd.

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 performers—Sherri L. Edelen, Nancy Anderson, and Matthew Scott—and 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.

Signature Theatre
Side by Side by Sondheim
April 26th - June 12th
Music and lyrics, by Stephen Sondheim
Additional music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, and Jule Styne
Continuity by Ned Sherrin
With Nancy Anderson, Sherri L. Edelen, and Matthew Scott
Pianists: Jon Kalbfleisch and Gabriel Mangiante
Directed and choreographed by Matthew Gardiner
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org.


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


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



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