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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Don't You Wait to See Ellis' Fair and Loverly Eliza Doolittle

There are few things as enchanting as rediscovering a once familiar musical through a new perspective.  Jennifer Ellis’ strong-willed Eliza Doolittle is not only a delight to watch, but a masterpiece of style and grace.  The Lyric Stage Company of Boston freshens the story of My Fair Lady into a modern take of capitalism, ambition, and human connection.  Director Scott Edmiston reimagines the world in the 1930s London, complete with top hats and empire waists, breadlines and soulful melodies.  This My Fair Lady feels even more accessible because of the nuanced acting by Ellis and the charming ignorance of Christopher Chew as Henry Higgins.  The sixteen cast members provide gusto and life to the challenging and lengthy musical making this fit perfectly as an intimate chamber musical with all of the excitement and expertise that the Lyric Stage Company of Boston is known throughout the region.  With an emphasis on storytelling this season, The Lyric brings a new story of rags-to-riches and poppy-cock-to-caviar dreams to its stage, but its heightened emphasis on treating people with dignity and finding the human connection that transcends class and economic status are themes worth dancing all night with this talented cast.

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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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A Wealth of Talent Brings "Rich Girl" to Boston

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s newest production of Victoria Stewart’s Rich Girl is wonderfully simple in its messages and execution. While the play may depict and ask some of the age-old questions of love and money (wonderfully explained and dissected in dramaturg A. Nora Long’s accompanying features), the play is resounds with the same poignancy as its source materials, broaching the question: How far have we come in dating? Are we still defined by what we offer materialistically to others? How do we create our own self-worth? 

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The Lyric is Alive with Miller’s Finest Work

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, needs no introduction. It is an American classic which resonates as easily today at The Lyric Stage in Boston as it did fifty years ago during the height of the American Dream. The Lyric Stage needs no introduction: a Boston My Theatre favourite company for its outstanding show selections, innovative community outreach, and consistent successful and talented performances. And its production of Death of a Salesman, directed by the always brilliant and smart Spiro Veloudos, easily compares the company’s other successes. However, this production diverges from the others that I have seen on the Lyric’s stage. The Lyric’s Death of a Salesman has heart and poignancy that strike a chord deep within you and lingers long after the house lights come up. Veloudos has assembled some of Boston’s best, but, more than that, he has directed the show with such empathy and infused the production with such continued importance that the show emerges as a performance of great ideas and great men (and women).

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The Lyric’s "Working" is a Simple Job with Much Profit

The Lyric Stage Company’s production of Working did not make my “Must See – January.” That was my mistake. I omitted it from the list because: a) none of the actors jumped out at me by name (though Ilyse Robbins, the director, certainly did – See 2013 My Theatre Award Nominees: Boston); b) the musical is an odd duck with its vignettes and small cast playing many different characters; c) it’s rarely acknowledged as the best work of composer Stephen Schwartz (famous for Wicked but also Pippin and Godspell, not for Working). Yet, The Lyric Stage Company of Boston surprises yet again with its breath of fresh air into this rarely-produced gem.

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"Water by the Spoonful" Drips with Goodness

As previously mentioned, Lyric Stage Company of Boston assembled one of the best seasons in Boston this year. For their fortieth year, Lyric Stage Company pulled out the big guns with silly and smart farces to beautiful and serene dramas to insightful and challenging musicals. For their second production of the season, Lyric Stage Company presents Quiara Alegría Hudes’ incredibly moving Water by the Spoonful. To call this production anything short of dazzling is to understate its success. Much of the success belongs to director Scott Edmiston, who understands how to tell a good story. He recognizes the comedy in every tragedy, and the tragedy in every comedy. His moments are crisp and realized, allowing his cast to push their characters, their interactions, and their conflicts to their limits. In a word, he is a poet and his poetry sings like falling water.

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"On The Town" Features Some of the Best in Town

Sometimes, you want to be transported to a different time, a different city, and reminded of the simple pleasure of things long past. With a diverse score by Leonard Bernstein, On the Town is a whimsical 24-hour journey of three sailors in New York City in 1944. Lyric Stage Company surprises with this rarely-done show. Spiro Veloudos is a masterful director, who creates a compelling story out of the mundane, raising the stakes and helping his actors achieve their fullest potential in each of their roles. On the Town is the perfect and must-see show for a night on the town.

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Boston's Best Brings Music to This Reviewer's Ear

Like a spark of creation, Lyric Stage Company of Boston brings an inspiring, talented, and absorbing production of 33 Variations to the Boston community. Toggling between present day and nineteenth century Austria, 33 Variations explores the creative process, transcendental beauty, the meaning of genius, and the passions within us all. The playwright, Moisés Kaufman, is better known for his adaptations of real life events, including popular plays The Laramie Project and Gross Indecency. In 33 Variations, however, he takes creation of Beethoven’s piano masterpiece, the Diabelli Variations, mixed with the original story of a musciologist’s pursuit of what compelled Beethoven to compose thirty-three distinct variations on a simple, uninspired theme. At first glance, I thought I was in over my head. While Kaufman is one of my favorite playwrights because of his strong thematic storytelling, I thought that Beethoven’s lesser known but equally dramatic work and musicology would definitely be over my head. I appreciate being proven wrong.

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