Sondheim on Sondheim
Music by Steven Sondheim
Show Conceived by James Lapine
Directed by Dr. Michael Foster
Seminole State College
Lake Mary, FL
If George Gershwin is basic arithmetic, then Steven Sondheim is third year calculus. This retrospective on Sondheim’s career is a specialist’s delight; the tracks and stories spend more time with his misses than his hits, not that he ever falls far from the mark. A half dozen or so musicians work under the direction of Dr. Michael Frasier, and eight students do the singing and a little staging for each of these songs. The program doesn’t match the show; the original two act project is cut to an hour with no intermission, and the tunes are reordered. But this production tackles some tough material, and the students do well with it even if few of these songs get hummed out to the parking lot. Sondheim appears on video talking about his career, his frustrations and his proudest moments between numbers. With 14 Broadway shows under his belt, not counting revivals, he’s the biggest success in this insular world over the last 40 years.
His first hit was “West Side Story” and most people know about “Sweeney Todd” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” But tonight, we spent most of our time exploring his more obscure shows: “Evening Primrose,” “Merrily We Roll Along” and “Follies” offer us new material. We get one line from his first show college “By George”; even Sondheim regrets the tune “I’ll Meet You at the Donut.” “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods” and even the difficult “Assassins” recall his more accessible shows. For some reason I’ve never fathomed, “Assassins” crosses the local boards regularly; I’ve seen four in my time and I hear it’s reappearing in 2018 somewhere around town. I see this as an educational event for the musical theater community and I did quietly hum “Comedy Tonight” on that long, cold walk back to my car.
For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm