Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Now You Know—An Evening with Steve, Lenny and Annie
Manatee Performing Arts Center

Ann Morrison
One of the great pleasures of living in the Sarasota area is that the wonderful Ann Morrison (original cast of Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along) is never far away, even if I don't get frequent enough opportunities to see her perform, especially in her natural milieu, musical theater. After a guest appearance in a Sondheim Unplugged evening at 54 Below in New York, she was invited back and that invitation led her to develop a cabaret show entitled Now You Know—An Evening with Steve, Lenny and Annie, which she tried out with several local performances and then a Labor Day appearance at the New York venue. The show attempts to share her life's journey so far, illustrated with musical examples from the pens of Leonard Bernstein, whom Ann never met, and Stephen Sondheim, whom she has and who wrote a song for Merrily especially for her ("Now You Know").

Since Ann is engaging as well as fabulously talented, the audience seemed interested in the stories she was sharing. It was in the music that Ann showed just how versatile she is, singing a great "I Can Cook, Too" from On the Town and then just a bit later taking on the same show's "Lonely Town." I don't know of many singers who would have the nerve to attempt both, yet both performances met all the varied demands of the songs. Other highlights included "Spring Will Come Again" (from Skin of Our Teeth) and "One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man" from Bernstein's Wonderful Town and "That Old Piano Roll," "Getting Married Today," and "Our Time" from Sondheim.

I have always felt that Ann's performance of the haunted and haunting "Like it Was," one of her songs from Merrily, was the ne plus ultra of performances, easily standing up to performances by better known Sondheim interpreters. Therefore, I have yearned to hear her revisit it in maturity. Unfortunately, she chose to do a parody of it written by Jason Alexander who appeared with her in the show. Yes it was funny, but I would have enjoyed hearing the original. The built-in encore was "Some Other Time" combined with "Goodbye for Now" (from the movie Reds) which drew waves of emotional energy from each other.

To keeping the running time to a reasonable 90 minutes, only parts of many of the songs were offered. That was fine with some of the material, especially the songs that perhaps Ann Morrison was not born to perform (a medley of bits of songs from the Bernstein/Sondheim collaboration West Side Story), but I would have liked to have heard many of the songs in their entirety ("Ladies Who Lunch," "Lonely Town," and several others) so good were her partial performances.

Ann received excellent musical support from frequent collaborator and friend Michael T. Sebastian, who is a leading musical light in these parts. (I can recall a memorable production of The Last 5 Years with two different casts, both excellent, that he presided over.)

For those who missed several performances in the area before and after the 54 Below performance, there is one more scheduled performance at freeFall Theater in St. Petersburg on September 29, 2013. Visit for more information.

Ann Morrison in Now You Know—An Evening with Steve, Lenny and Annie, September 6, 2013, at Manatee Performing Arts Center, Bradenton, Florida.

--William S. Oser

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