September 16, 2010
I just got finished listening to the new cast album of Sondheim on Sondheim again. Really, this is for my money the best album that’s been released in a long while, and I can’t imagine anything topping it in the near future.
It features stellar performances by Barbara Cook (appearing at the Birchmere next month), Vanessa Williams, Euan Morton (currently in Chess at Signature), Leslie Kritzer (soon to appear at Arena). There’s a balance of classic Sondheim material as well as unknown gems (like The Wedding Is Off, apparantly a previous version of Getting Married Today).
Get and enjoy!
August 31, 2010
I saw Signature Theatre’s handsome production of Chess Sunday afternoon. When the principals of the new staging were belting out the big numbers of the show, I was transported to a state of audience bliss. Cabaret Scenes cover-boy Euan Morton gives a rousing first act close with “Anthem.” Jeremey Kushnier’s “Pity the Child” shows how much subtlety can be wrought while still pounding out a rock number. Jill Paice delivers a sequence of showstoppers including a heart-wrenching “Someone Else’s Story,” a plaintive “Heaven Help My Heart,” and a riveting “I Know Him So Well” (in a duet with the always-fascinating Eleasha Gamble).
Unfortunately the other 60% of the show is much more problematic. Although director Eric Schaeffer has worked to tighten the narrative, bring focus to the story, and minimize the gaps between those great moments, the script contains a number of daunting hurdles. The Cold War background of the play, with references to symbols like the Berlin Wall, now sits in a nether zone between immediate concern and nostalgic memory. None of the principals is in any way sympathetic or endearing to the audience. And none of the characters seem to develop as the evening goes on.
The writing is also hugely problematic. Much of it sounds like it was written in another language and simply fed through an online translation program. Many of the expository lyrics sit badly on their melody lines. And the dialogue often sounds like Berlitz English language lessons, rather than capturing the voice of individual characters.
This script is made much more convincing by Signature’s handsome production. And the combination of Signature’s intimate space with the tremendously appealing cast goes a long way to mitigate the weaknesses of much of the material.
November 18, 2009
I caught the latest installment of Signature Theater’s salute to its 20th anniverary: Signature Sings 1995 – 1999.
I’ll link to my Cabaret Scenes review of the piece when it’s up, but until then I want to report that I thoroughly enjoyed the piece.
I thought that Natascha Diaz and Euan Morton brought a rare combination of star power, talent, and audience connection to the show that made the evening utterly charming.* What’s more they brought fresh, personal interpretations to an interesting choice of songs selected from the musicals that Signature produced 1995 – 1999 including Tell Me on a Sunday, A Little Night Music, and The Fix. The closer, combining Sondheim’s Sunday with Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me on a Sunday was an example of a musical idea that didn’t have to totally work to be a thrilling performance moment.
Great music direction by Gabriel Mangiante, utterly charming guitar work from Steven Walker, and terrificly translucent direction by Matthew Gardiner
The show continues through Sunday.
Here’s what they sang:
- Wilkommen (Cabaret)
- Eat the Ice Cream (Over and Over)
- If I Loved You (A Grand Night for Singing)
- Millwork (Working)
- Chief Cook and Bottle Washer (The Rink)
- Don’t Blame the Prince (THe Fix)
- Spin (The Fix)
- The Money Song (Cabaret)
- Cabaret (Cabaret)
- Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music)
- Loving You (Passion)
- I Wish I Could Forget You (Passion)
- Finishing the Hat (Sunday in the Park with George)
- Move On (Sunday in the Park with George)
- The Miller’s Son (A Little Night Music)
- Married Men (Tell Me on a Sunday)
- Tell Me on a Sunday (Tell Me on a Sunday) / Sunday (Sunday in the Park with George)
*Ron who went with me didn’t see Diaz in Every Little Step and hasn’t listed to Taboo as much was not pre-sold on the stars and was chillier to the whole enterprise than I was.
November 9, 2009
My head is spinning. Two more shows in the next couple of weeks to take note of and an open mic:
The Vocal Arts Society salutes “Great Songwriting Teams” — Friday, 13 November, 7:30 pm. Terrace Theater, Kennedy Center.
The show features the amazing line-up of Jason Graae (the Crown Prince of Cabaret Comedy who shows that an amazing voice can be as funny as a bad one), Mary Testa (Goddess/Legend) and Liza Forrester (Mezzo-soprano I’ve never heard of).
Signature Sings: 1995-1999, November 17 – 22, 2009
Current Cabaret Scenes cover boy Euan Morton and Natascha Diaz (so amazing in Every Little Step) perform songs from the musical productions from 1995-1999 including First Lady Suite, Cabaret, A Grand Night for Singing, Passion, The Rink, Sunday in the Park With George, Working, The Fix, A Little Night Music, Over and Over, and Tell Me on a Sunday.
DC Cabaret Network Open Mic, Monday 16 November, Sign-up 7:30, Start at 8:00pm, Warehouse Theater – Cancelled
Note this has been cancelled. Check www.dccabaretnetwork.org for possible rescheduling. The November open mic features welcomes the DCCN debut of Jonathan Tuzman. (BTW, mark your calendars: there’s also a November 30 one with Peter Darling at Stars).