Talented cast honors versatile Sondheim

`Side by Side' revue playing on Bowie stage

Review

February 23, 2007|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,Special to The Sun

Prince George's Little Theatre's celebration of Stephen Sondheim is a show that fans should catch to expand their knowledge of our nation's foremost living composer.

In Side by Side by Sondheim at Bowie Playhouse, director Ron Wilder has assembled a talented cast of singers who he acknowledges are inspired by musical director Mac Fancher. Wilder wisely chose to put pianists Fancher and Sue Breon at stage left, making them part of the action and adding a cozy feel to the musical revue of Sondheim's work.

Appearing at stage right is Meg Yednock, who serves as the narrator, wittily tying the songs together to form a coherent theme while adding enlightening biographical tidbits. Yednock occasionally joins the group in song, adding her own warm, stylish presence.

The program pays tribute to works of Sondheim's music and lyrics, and others for which he supplied only the lyrics: Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, Jule Styne's Gypsy and Richard Rodgers' Do I Hear a Waltz?

Singers work harmoniously in ensemble, duets and solo. They include Anne Staunton Adams, a veteran of more than 50 stage productions; classically trained singer Martin Bestimt, who makes his Little Theatre debut here; and Carole Long, who has often appeared on the Bowie Playhouse stage for 2nd Star Productions. Stage and television veteran Erica Drezek makes her second Little Theatre appearance, and newcomer Mike Marshall rounds out the cast.

Drezek shows spectacular versatility, with a wry response in "You Must Meet My Wife," a duet with Bestimt; adroit comic finesse as the flight attendant in "Barcelona;" terror of a bride-to-be in her tour-de-force tongue-twisting "Getting Married Today," Sondheim's patter song that rivals Gilbert and Sullivan's wittiest; and the comically restrained debauchery of "I Never Do Anything Twice."

Adding luster to everything she sings, Adams teams with Long for "If Momma Was Married" from Gypsy, and conveys humor and sensuous joy in "Can That Boy Fox Trot" in trio with Long and Drezek. She delivers a powerful "A Boy Like That" with Long and offers two show-stopping solos: "Losing My Mind," filled with underlying heartache, and "I'm Still Here," an inspiring anthem of survival.

Another versatile performer is Bestimt, whose "You Must Meet My Wife" expresses a touching eagerness to fool himself, and "I Remember" features descending half- tones and gorgeous lyric ("I remember snow, soft as feathers, sharp as thumbtacks. Coming down like lint. And, it made you squint.") It instantly became my new favorite Sondheim song.

"Could I Leave You?" is another powerful Bestimt performance.

Honesty, warmth and a great set of pipes sum up Long, who evokes the isolation of New York in "Another Hundred People," the raucous fun of Gypsy's "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" and a riveting "Send in the Clowns."

Marshall does excellent ensemble work and shines in the sophisticated "Marry Me a Little" and Follies tune "Beautiful Girls."

"Side by Side by Sondheim" continues at Bowie Playhouse on weekends through March 3. Tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for seniors and students 18 and under. For reservations, call 301-937-7458.

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