The Best "Sondheim" in Boston

The Best "Sondheim" in Boston

I am a huge Sondheim fan; I love him for his “crazy” characters, his smart dissection of life, his clever lyrics and turns-of-phrases, and his eclectic musical styles. The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s Sondheim on Sondheim is a dream come true. Running two hours and forty-five minutes, few aspects of Sondheim’s life are left unheard or untouched by this gorgeous musical revue conceived by his long-time collaborator James Lapine. And the Lyric Stage is one of the only theatre companies in Boston who can find the hummable tunes and the complex characters within Sondheim’s expansive scores and stories. Lead by genius Sondheim-interpreter Director Spiro Veloudos (whose Sondheim credits are too numerous to list) and supported by Music Director Jonathan Goldberg (another Sondheim professional) and Choreographer Ilyse Robbins (whose work excels expectations, especially for a Sondheim revue), this rarely-done production offers acute insights into an artists’ motivation, but, moreover, it grants a deep understanding of Sondheim’s characters and how some Boston legends and rising stars interpret and apply themselves to Sondheim’s work. This inside-look is voyeuristic and beautiful, celebrating not only Sondheim but also the Lyric and the performers that we love to see there. 

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Fiddlehead's "West Side Story" is A Safe Rumble

When West Side Story appeared on Broadway in September 1957, critics described it as electrifying and savage. Fiddlehead Theatre Company brings this Bernstein/Laurents/Sondheim musical classic to the historic Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  However, they lack the electric and miss the savage.  By using many aspects of the original production by Jerome Robbins, the musical feels safe.  The vibrancy in the dance is lost, despite the eagerness and ability of the talented ensemble.  While some of the leading characters, particularly Kim Corbett as Maria, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva as Bernardo, and Pamela Turpen as Anita, offer star-studded and remarkable performances, this West Side Story is set in the safer alleyways, the “Tonight” that fails to reach its apex, but pleases the crowd nonetheless. 

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A Half-Hearted Smile for "A Little Night Music"

The summer night may smile three times, but it might have smiled a fourth time on The Arlington Friends of the Drama’s 429th production A Little Night Music, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler. The community theatre boasts some wonderful talent on the small stage, and mostly succeeds in orchestrating the complicated waltz of Sondheim’s score and Wheeler’s story under the careful direction of Joe Stallone and music direction of J. Parker Eldridge. They trip in the casting of essential characters, but manage to glide through the production on the coattails of David Warnock’s Fredrik and the surprising luster of Emily Earle’s Petra.

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A Haunting Thriller with Safety Clippers

The Lyric Stage Company does Sondheim well. Director Spiro Veloudos speaks Sondheim’s language as if it were his natural tongue, and he does a good job of translating to the stage with the help of his accomplished cast. Except the entire production felt afraid to push the boundaries or explore the nuances of Sondheim’s dense score and haunting book in the latest production ofSweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The Lyric Stage Company produces a thoroughly enjoyable tale of a man who was wrongly convicted of a crime and judgment, and his blood-thirsty revenge against his wrongdoers, but, like a ghost story that is toned down for the little ones, the production felt safe. While theirInto the Woods this past Spring sparkled with new life and interpretation of fairy tale characters, Sweeney Todd was just about what you’d expect from professional and talented actors and designers. I wanted more blood.

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Magical Moments in the Woods

Into the Woods may be one of my favorite Sondheim musicals, if not one of my favorite musicals. I have seen and participated in countless productions of this show, so I come to The Lyric’s production with a wealth of knowledge and experience. For any other production, this burden would be insurmountable; I would be unable to clear my preconceived notions of whether Milky White should be played by a versatile and physical actor or a suitcase, whether the Witch should be remorseful or vengeful in her rendition of Last Midnight, or whether the pace of Ever After was brisk enough for the Act I finale. Luckily, I brought my mother for a fond Mother’s Day treat. As a newcomer to the show (though with my endless chatter about the musical for almost twenty years), she brought a fresh perspective to seeing the musical. Even more so, however, The Lyric Stage Company of Boston brought its own fresh and invigorating perspective to the musical with its creative casting, artful storytelling, and powerful performances. This production is (in almost every way) worthy of the Must See praise for which I offered it.

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“Everybody’s Got the Right” to See F.U.D.G.E.’s "Assassins"

I have unrealistic expectations for Assassins. It is easily one of my favorite shows, falling behind only Into the Woods as my favorite Sondheim. I know how odd that makes me, as a person and a theatre aficionado, and I give you free reign to judge me. F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company’s production of Assassins has some impressive and moving moments, but fails to really inspire like some of the company’s other works (Spring Awakening quickly comes to mind, with some shining work in both Parade and Carousel). The show is still incredibly important to see, especially in our current debate regarding gun control, publicity, and politics. The company’s commitment makes up for most, if any, of its deficiencies.

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Assassins Misses the Mark, but Gets the Job Done

Timing is everything. The Boston University College of Fine Arts showcased some astounding talent in their recent production of Assassins by musical genius Stephen Sondheim. Concluding their year-long “Keyword: Violence” festival, the CFA program explores America’s famous (and not so famous) assassins through their stories and motives, but, more importantly, the show offers a compelling conversation in the election year about our responses to American life. This production struggles under some mediocre casting, but overall, the show shines with brilliance and thought-provoking discourse.

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"Into the Woods" Isn't Your Average Fairy Tale

I’ve argued with many friends about the purpose of theater; some people believe that theater is meant to tell a story and entertain, while others maintain that a performance is not complete without leaving the audience with some message or question to ponder later that night. I can think of no finer work to satisfy either group’s desires than Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods. In the hands of the Newton Country Players, the ambitious production featured an especially strong supporting cast, but lacked magic in its execution.

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