Side by Side by Sondheim

Side by Side by Sondheim

Sondheim

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
And music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers, Jule Styne.
Directed by Valerie Moore
Musical direction by Mark Camilleri
Performed by Charlotte Moore, Glynis Ranney, Michael Torontow, Shawn Wright.
Grand Theatre, London
October 19 to November 6, 2010
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

A Little Night Music and More

It is a night of music, wonderful Sondheim music, in a revue onstage at London’s Grand Theatre. Songs are included from lyricist/composer Stephen Sondheim’s works such as “A Little Night Music”, “Company”, “Follies”, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Gypsy”, and “West Side Story”. Sondheim, who turned 80 this year, is a brilliant Broadway lyricist. He writes in rhyme without appearing forced or artificial. His vocabulary is appropriate for the character and furthers the plot of the show. His songs can be moving and evocative, or laugh-out-loud funny.

The Grand assembled an excellent cast for this Sondheim review: Charlotte Moore, Glynis Ranney, Michael Torontow, and Shawn Wright. Charlotte Moore was last seen on the Grand’s stage as Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables. She is an icon in Canadian theatre, and it’s interesting to see noted in her bio that she has a Dora award – the Toronto theatre awards named after her grandmother, another icon, Dora Mavor Moore. Charlotte is the daughter of the late Mavor Moore, the well-known director.

Glynis Ranney has an impressive musical theatre bio, having preformed in many Sondheims at the Shaw Festival. She, too, holds a Dora award. Michael Torontow is a Dora nominee with a lengthy list of remarkable credits, and Shawn Wright has come to the Grand from the popular Jersey Boys. His biography includes many world premiers, (Mamma Mia!, Lord of the Rings, Ragtime to name a few) and he has a Guthrie award, with six seasons at the Stratford Festival.

Charlotte Moore and Shawn Wright do an entertaining version of “You must meet my wife” from A Little Night Music, and Michael Torontow gives a wonderful rendition of “Being Alive” from Company. Together they offer a great interpretation of Company’s “You could drive a person crazy”. Mr. Wright has a poignant rendition of “Could I Leave You?” from Follies.

Glynis Ranney does a hilarious number from The Mad Show, “The Boy From …” where she shows her comedic skills and her ability to twist her tongue around Spanish and Welsh words. Ms Ranney also gives an expressive performance of “Losing My Mind” from Follies. An audience favourite is the more familiar “Send in the Clowns”, beautifully presented by Ms Moore. “I’m Still Here”, an emotional plea from Follies, also presented by Ms Moore, allows her to deliver a forceful message in a style reminiscent of Judy Garland.

The closing is great fun, a mash-up of Sondheim’s comedic stuff, which the foursome attack with great energy and enthusiasm.

Credit also goes to the two accompanists: Mark Camilleri and Darryn de Souza, each at a grand piano on either side of the stage.

For Sondheim fans, this is a wonderful evening: A roller coaster ride of rollicking belts, along with sweet relationship songs that will tug the heartstrings. It’s superb music, very well performed. The only disappointment is that this revue was put together early in Sondheim’s career, and does not include his later works, among which are some of my favourites: “Sweeney Todd”, “Into The Woods”, “Assassins”, and “Sunday in the Park with George”.

Side by Side by Sondheim continues at the Grand Theatre in London until November 6. Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 519-672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593, or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

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