Tuesday, January 5, 2016

reviews - SNAPSHOTS - Arizona Theatre Company

Hugh Hastings, Jim DeSelm, Tracy McDowell, Beth DeVries, Ben Wynant, and Mallory King
Photo by Mark Kitaoka
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 January 17th.

"There’s no denying it; the work of American musical theatre lyricist and composer Stephen Schwartz is as upbeat and as infectious as you could wish...When writer David Stern had an idea of creating a new production, he contacted the famed composer. The piece, Stern said, would be framed around past work. Not exactly a jukebox musical, not in the traditional sense. More like a revue, a reflection back where the songs would be lifted from their individual origins and pieced together to tell a new story. ...Snapshots is a musical mosaic love story built from the songs of Stephen Schwartz....David Stern’s book feels lightweight. .... this six person cast, supported by R. J. Tancioco’s outstanding, piano-heavy music direction, delivers them all with a pitch-perfect clarity of sound. Each number, without exception, is sheer delight. Knowledge of previous works and how those songs are creatively re-used for Snapshots is where the real fun of this new production rests, but even if you’re new to the works of Stephen Shwartz, you’ll still appreciate what the cast is doing with them. ... technical credits are first class....Director Daniel Goldstein effectively uses all available areas of the attic to move his characters as the memory of Dan and Sue’s younger selves crawl out of storage boxes or literally emerge out of a projected picture. Particularly effective and surprisingly touching is the moment when the aged couple slow-dance with their younger, better halves....The book is thin and ultimately reveals little new...but the music and its delivery make Snapshots worth it. Once the show is done and a few days have passed, you won’t remember a great deal, but the songs will live forever, as they should. Despite the occasional change of lyrics, with those melodious hooks and those wonderful signature Stephen Shwartz piano chords, how could it be otherwise? " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"As one of the most prolific and successful Broadway composers still working today, it's amazing that Stephen Schwartz hasn't had a revue show of his material..this multiple Grammy, Oscar, and Drama Desk Award winner has a plethora of strong material to choose from. Over twenty years ago Michael Scheman and David Stern came up with the idea for a revue of Schwartz's work and the end result is Snapshots, which isn't just a revue, but actually a brand new musical, since it has a completely original story and many new lyrics that help make the songs relevant to the tale of a married couple, in their early fifties, at an impasse in their marriage, who look back on their lives together...Arizona Theatre Company's co-production with Seattle's Village Theatre.. is poignant and well directed with a very good cast, many of whom have appeared in previous productions of this show.  Stern's book is slight but features touches of warmth, humor, and romance....While the ending may be predictable there are still enough plot elements that make you question if this journey through the past will be enough to rekindle Sue and Dan's relationship. The only flaw with the show is that Stern's book focuses almost the entire time on the younger characters' lives so we don't really see what happened to Dan and Sue in the past ten years that made them drift as far apart as they are when the show begins. Schwartz's score features about 50% newly rewritten lyrics so, unlike a jukebox musical like Mamma Mia! where songs are simply shoe-horned in...the lyrics for Snapshot are specific to the characters and plot. While there are a couple of songs from Schwartz's hit shows, many of the musical highlights of Snapshots are from his flops. "Meadowlark," from The Baker's Wife, is sung by the three versions of Sue and is exceptional, especially in the stellar arrangement by Steve Orich, in showing us the reasoning behind Sue's decision to leave...."All Good Gifts" from Godspell and "The Spark of Creation" from Children of Eden form a tight twosome about the joys of parenthood while "In Whatever Time We Have," also from Children of Eden, forms a nice ending, even if it was originally sung by a couple facing the end of their lives and here is sung by a duo facing their future. Musical director R. J. Tancioco achieves lush vocals from his cast and also leads the strong four-piece band. The ATC cast is very good. Beth DeVries and Hugh Hastings are the adult Sue and Dan. Both have played these parts in previous versions of the show so they have a clear understanding of the characters....Daniel Goldstein's direction is smartly paced with smooth transitions and a good balance between drama and humor....This reimagining may not appeal to those who like Schwartz's songs the way they were originally written and the book does leave a few holes. However... Snapshots has a story that anyone who has ever been in a relationship can relate to. With over two dozen of Schwartz's songs, a gifted cast, and impressive direction and creative elements, ATC's production is an extremely entertaining examination of one couple's thirty-year struggle through life's ups and downs."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...“Snapshots,” Arizona Theatre Company’s superb premiere show homage is given Stephen Schwartz, composer of Broadway smash hits like “Wicked,” “Godspell,” and “Pippin” among his 12 shows represented in “Snapshots.” ..smashing... a touching story about a long-time married couple who deal with their changing relationship and its impact on the marriage. ...Each situation is enhanced by Schwartz’s perspective tunes. Unlike many musical revues, about 75 percent of the song lyrics have been changed to fit the story that is set in Sue and Dan’s attic where many things from their marriage have accumulated.  While in the attic, many things that weren’t said earlier get dissected. ...staged eloquently by Daniel Goldstein...Abe Jacob’s sound that blends the orchestra and the on stage ensemble so not a lyric is missed. A marvelous cast handles the couple at the three stages of their marriage and they essay additional characters that cause other marital stresses...earns five stars out of five." -Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

""Snapshots," opened by Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) this weekend...With a strong and talented cast, last night's performance well demonstrated the power of musical narrative to reach deeper... with both exhilarating and troublesome effect... the tale of a long-married couple, Sue and Dan (Beth DeVries and Hugh Hastings), as they re-live memories by sifting through boxes of old photos in their attic. Though the "Snapshots" story itself is neither nuanced nor complex, it is thoughtful and cleverly told.... The show's technical team used a wonderfully cluttered attic set to project numerous vintage photos at varying angles on the walls and ceiling to enrich the memory telling when Dan unexpectedly entered the attic looking for Sue. And then, lots of those photos of Sue and Dan's childhood friendship and young adult experiences came to life in the form of characters who played younger versions of themselves (Mallory King and Tracy McDowell as Sue, Jim DeSelm and Ben Wynant as Dan). Steven Schwartz... has bent and tweaked and just plain rewritten a heap of lyrics to blend his music into this new, engaging story. ..Schwartz also on several occasions magically layered a tune from one show over another. In particular, "Lion Tamer" (Magic Show) fit beautifully with "I'm not that Girl" (Wicked) in a medley-like duet, while "Popular" (Wicked) melded with "No Time at All" (Pippin) in a cute, light-hearted number. A lovely trio of Susans closed the First Act with "Meadowlark" (from Baker's Wife) and was easily the show's musical highlight. ...But all that grandly conceived music applied to a new setting has some drawbacks, too.. it's hard not to feel the competing presence of the original stories and musicals that prompted Schwartz to write these memorable numbers. How does one not hear Elphaba and Glinda or Catherine and Pippin crooning the sentiments when those melodies are already embedded in us as "their" songs? ..Like short-lived Snapchat stories or grotesquely abbreviated Tweets of social media, the Snapshots central message that Arizona Theatre Company so well produced may struggle to endure. Stephen Schwartz's legacy of music and lyrics however, in part attributed to this weekend's well-focused and framed production, will no doubt continue on for a good number of generations." -Jennifer Haaland, Examiner.com (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON - Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

COMING SOON -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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