Magazine article The Sondheim Review

A Lot of Words

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

A Lot of Words

Article excerpt

Performers keep coming back to sing at Sondheim Unplugged

"What could be gayer than this?" host Phil Geoffrey Bond asked a room packed with Sondheimites on June 30, 2013, at New York cabaret club 54 Below (beneath Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54) for Sondheim Unplugged. The day also marked the city's annual Gay Pride celebration, a particularly momentous event considering the historic Supreme Court decision earlier in the week that deemed it unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to married same-sex couples. A feeling of jubilation permeated the space, and what better way to wrap up the weekend than with a little Stephen Sondheim?

The award-winning series marked its 28th installment, a run that outdistances Anyone Can Whistle by 19 performances and Merrily We Roll Along by 12, as Bond pointed out in one of his many Sondheim factoids. The show's title comes from the fact that the performers sing with only a piano.

Evan Harrington opened the show with "Marry Me a Little" (Company). His performance was slightly hesitant and restrained at first, but after an overt lyrical fumble, which led him to start over from the top, Harrington harnessed the song's power and delivered a moving opener. "In case you didn't know, Sondheim has a lot of words," he said, poking fun at himself for his mistake.

The difficulty of memorizing Sondheim's lyrics seemed to be a theme, as later on, expert showman Mark Nadler also had to restart one of his numbers. He stole a turn at the piano to sing "The Miller's Son" (Night Music) in honor of the Pride celebration. He admitted to learning the song the day before, and though he cutely revised some of the lyrics for the occasion - adding lines like "we'll adopt" after "five fat babies" and changing "him all in tails" to "both in tails" - he still made a few (albeit humorous) errors. At the end of the number, Nadler rolled off the piano bench, illustrating his exhaustion.

Earlier in the show, Nadler performed "Uptown/Downtown," a song cut from Follies about "Hyphenated Harriet." He sang with an intense vibrato and made sure to demonstrate to the audience the brilliance of the composition and the lyrics, adding that Sondheim's rhyming dictionary must have had a field day with lines like "She sits/At the Ritz/With her splits/Of Mumm's/And starts to pine/For a stein/With her Village chums. …

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