Friday, October 30, 2015

reviews - SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM - Scottsdale Musical Theater Company

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 31st.


Stephen Sondheim is considered by many to be the greatest living American musical theatre composer. ...There have also been numerous revues of his musical contributions, the latest being Sondheim on Sondheim which is receiving its Arizona premiere in a smart, solid, and often moving production from Scottsdale Musical Theater Company....While the other revues of his work have featured the many hits that he has written, Sondheim on Sondheim is the first one that includes Sondheim himself. Through the clever use of pre-recorded video pieces’some recorded specifically for the 2010 Broadway production along with archival footage of Sondheim on various TV shows’Sondheim is incorporated throughout the show to provide information on his life, his working habits, his music, and the creation process....the inclusion Sondheim himself as part of the show adds a unique way to get to know the man behind the music along with the experience of hearing dozens of his songs. ...While the show does have a few downsides, including the fact that sometimes the video segments break up the flow of the show and that some of Sondheim's major works, including Sweeney Todd, are barely represented, the video segments are always informative and the songs that are included add to the context of the piece by providing a background in to the creative process. The cast for SMTC's production is just about perfect, with varied singing styles and featuring a nice mix of performers of different ages. ...Nicole Bond... excels in several numbers, including a touching delivery of "Send in the Clowns" as well as two lovely duets. Her performance of "Beautiful" from Sunday in the Park with George that she sings with Michael Schauble is exceptionally moving. A nicely crafted pairing of "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along and "Losing My Mind" from Follies, which is sung by Marina Blue Jarrette, is remarkable in how the delivery of Sondheim's succinct lyrics about love in its many shapes and forms combine so beautifully and simply....Jarrette shows off her clear, strong voice throughout, including delivering a fun "Ah, but Underneath" from Follies, and Schauble exceeds in bringing out the emotion within the humor of "Franklin Shepard, Inc." from Merrily We Roll Along. Alex Crossland's smooth voice excels on "Being Alive" from Company as well as on "Is This What You Call Love?" from Passion. "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George receives a stirring performance from Matt Newhard, full of passion and understanding of the creative process. Curtis Moeller, Lindsay Newhard, and Chelsea Janzen round out the cast with each getting a moment of two throughout to show their strong vocal skills. Hector Coris' smart direction includes ...just enough choreographed moments to provide variety to the evening. Coris is able to achieve exceptional performances from his cast which is exemplary, considering that, with just a few sequences where a few songs from a single show are used, all of the numbers are taken out of the context of their respective shows. This is both a testament to Coris' directorial skills as well as Sondheim's ability to write lyrics that are clear, clever, specific, and full of meaning....Both informative and entertaining and including solid performances and direction, SMTC's production of Sondheim on Sondheim will give you a better understanding of the creative process behind making musicals as well as an even greater appreciation for Sondheim himself."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"There is one major problem with Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's production of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM and it is its limited engagement. Three performances in a single weekend just ain't enough for a show that involves the technical sophistication of synchronizing videos of Sondheim recollections, forty choreographed vignettes, and live orchestra...and for a company that does it so very well and deserves to be seen and applauded....Directed by Hector Coris, who, given his chops as both a performer and a director, understands the musical form as well as anybody, has smartly matched his eight talented crooners with the music. ...Matt Newhard,whose stage presence and vocals are equally and consistently rich, provides a number of them, most notably his take on sinister Sweeney Todd's Epiphany.  Nicole Bond shines throughout the production and her renditions of Take Me to the World and Loving You are heartfelt and deeply touching reveries. Michael Schauble rocks the stage with a witty and muscular turn in Franklin Shepard, Inc. Of course, it is Sondheim's remarkably candid reflections, captured in Peter Flaherty's masterful collage video, that are the tapestry through which this weave of songs are wound. They are as broad and deep as the range of his compositions and reveal the mind, heart, and soul that have been the wellspring of his genius. He recounts his upbringing ~ the unwanted child of a self-absorbed socialite whose fortuitous introduction to Oscar Hammerstein gave Sondheim his chief and beloved mentor. He speaks of the collaborations with Broadway's other geniuses, that framed his work. He opines on his life choices, successes, failures, and rewrites. He invites us into his inner sanctum where, lying back on his couch, with lead pencil and legal pad and shot of vodka, he puts his muse to work. In footage from TV interviews, he shares his artistic vision and creative method.  In the end, SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, conceived by James Lapine, one of his great collaborators, is a unique revelatory journey and a treasure chest of insights...."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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