Tuesday, November 28, 2006
John Doyle - fresh off another Sondheim piece - Sweeney Todd - has pulled off another total re-creation of a musical. Actors on stage with musical instruments - this time a shiny black grand piano center stage with all the complementing instruments carried by the cast. It's similar in concept, but different enough in delivery and content from to be fresh. Doyle didn't have to sacrifice (as he did in Sweeney) any key stage elements in this already "concert-like, ensemble piece.
Sondheim's music is fast-paced, witty, often discordant (lots of sharps and flats!) and it's wordy and full of story. Bobby's (Raul Esparza) vocal performance could not have been better. He finally blossoms at the end of the story, symbolically by taking up an instrument for the first time and singing the 11 O'clock number - "Being Alive" like no one I've ever heard before.
Just as you would suspect, it's the same music, but all done with a unique flair - never sounding like the original - just like a pop star who re-makes an old cover tune. Joanne puts a clever spin on "The Ladies Who Lunch" (by the way - i didn't mention who was actually sitting next to me in the audience - none other than Elaine Stritch, the original Joanne!). Amy flawlessly fired off "Getting Married Today" (it's sung in triple time- meaning it sounds like the disclaimer at the end of a car advertisement). Robert and the entire cast ushers in Act II with a rousing rendition of "Side by Side" - showcasing their vocal, instrumental, dancing, and acting abilities!
Despite it's 1970's origins- you'd never know it in this performance. It's relevant and current and fresh - get your running shoes on... cause this one's a "run don't walk" over at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on West 47th! I think Miss Perry is going to like this one next July!