Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Joyous Journey with 'Sondheim' | Revue Features Video Interviews of the Composer Talking about His Songs and Shows

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Joyous Journey with 'Sondheim' | Revue Features Video Interviews of the Composer Talking about His Songs and Shows

Article excerpt

THEATER REVIEW

One of the reasons Stephen Sondheim is so revered in the world of musical theater is that each time you hear one of his songs, either within the context of the shows, or separated from the character and plot, you can discover something new.

And there's a lot to discover and appreciate in freeFall Theatre's mostly charming production of "Sondheim on Sondheim," a sort of entertaining and instructional overview of his career. It even acknowledges his high ranking in the musical theater world with a clever new song called "God," in which the cast members sing about how challenging, complex and inspiring his work is.

The revue, conceived and originally directed by James Lapine and based on a concept by David Kernan (who also created the 1976 hit "Side by Side by Sondheim"), features Sondheim in video interviews talking about the creation of some of his songs and shows, efforts to turn problem work into a hit, his troubled family history and deep connection with Oscar Hammerstein II, and his favorite writing style (lying on the couch with a special pencil and a yellow legal writing pad).

His comments provide lead-ins to more than three dozen songs by a cast of eight singers, with something from every show (except "Pacific Overtures"). You get to hear growth, maturity, joy and sorrow all combining in an eclectic collection of songs under the smooth direction of Chris Crawford.

Among the cast is Ann Morrison, who made her Broadway debut in 1981 in one of Sondheim's few flops, "Merrily We Roll Along," which also features one of his most vibrant scores. And there she is 35 years later, once again singing "Now You Know" from "Merrily" about lessons learned from bad experiences, along with other songs that she performs with her vibrant voice and a sense of intelligence. Morrison is always connected to the lyrics and the stories created around the songs. …

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