Magazine article The Sondheim Review

"God" Down Under

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

"God" Down Under

Article excerpt

Australia makes Sondheim on Sondheim its own in Sydney

Sondheim on Sondheim had its Australian premiere Oct. 1-8, 2014, when Squabbalogic produced the show at Sydney's Seymour Centre. The production company specializes in "local premieres of the best new musicals and reinterpretations from the canon of outstanding musical theatre." (Squabbalogic has produced shows such as Carrie and The Drowsy Chaperone.) Artistic Director Jay James-Moody staged the production.

Unlike the original production on Broadway in 2010, this production had no "legends" in its cast. Instead it used an ensemble of experienced Australian performers - Blake Erickson, Rob Johnson, Louise Kelly, Debora Krizak, Phillip Lowe, Monique Sallé (who also choreographed), Christy Sullivan and Dean Vince. Monique Sallé also choreographed. From the piano, Musical Director Hayden Barltrop conducted an excellent band of eight musicians, replicating the line-up seen on Broadway.

The production was staged in the Reginald Theatre, one of the smaller performance spaces at the Seymour. (The space previously hosted the Australian or Sydney premieres of Assassins, Pacific Overtures, Passion and Sunday in the Park with George). The entire Reginald would fit comfortably on the stage of Studio 54, where the show was first presented with a bank of video screens. On this smaller stage, James-Moody had one giant screen dead center upstage, with musicians below and behind it. Between the back of the screen and extending around to the wings was a kind of curtain made of crumpled sheet music through which the vertical strings had been threaded and tightened, complete with gaps to provide entrances from the wings for the performers. The director's thought was to replicate the discarded sheets of music Sondheim produced during his years of composing. (A closer look revealed them to be the score to Sweeney Todd.)

There were black boxes or seats on castors that the cast moved from time to time, assembling them in different configurations. The singers could have easily filled such a small venue with unassisted voices; however, subtle microphones, supervised by Jessica James-Moody (also co-producer and video operator), meant that every lyric was crystal clear, along with the sound from the video.

With such an able ensemble, it's almost unfair to isolate highlights - Johnson as Charley ("Franklin Shepherd, Inc."), Lowe as Sweeney ("Epiphany") and Robert ("Happily Ever After"), Sullivan ("Take Me to the World"), Krizak ("Ah, But Underneath," a song that finally made sense to me due to the staging and choreography), Erickson as George ("Finishing the Hat"), Kelly as Fosca, Vince as Giorgio in excerpts from Passion and Sallé leading into "Now You Know. …

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