Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miami Beach Stage Door: Side by Side By Sondheim (3 reviews)

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre opened its production of Side by Side by Sondheim on November 30, 2012.
Musical revue of early and mid-career songs of the greatest musical theater writer, whose work include Gypsy, West Side Story, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum and many more.
Kevin Black directed a cast that included Shane Tanner, Don Stansfield, Priscilla Fernandez, and Lynn Wilhite.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

So many of the songs coming from the stage at the Byron Carlyle Theatre (where Stage Door performs) are clever, tuneful, ironic or downright gorgeous. And more often than not, the four-member cast — Priscilla Fernandez, Shane R. Tanner, Don Stansfield and Lynn Wilhite — performs them well.
With his rich, robust voice and easy charm, Tanner becomes the show’s anchor and one of its strongest assets. The wistful I Remember from the made-for-TV musical Evening Primrose is a hauntingly beautiful solo. Tanner also delivers a biting Could I Leave You? (traditionally sung by a woman) from Follies and makes it his own.
Fernandez, who impressively handles the rapid-fire tour de force that is Getting Married Today from Company, is also a vocal standout.
Stage Door’s Side by Side by Sondheim is neither elaborate nor flawless. But for devotees of that influential composer-lyricist, an artist who has created such eclectic and enduring work, it’s as much a holiday treat as A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker or (thank you, Irving Berlin) White Christmas.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Sond-heads will savor this retrospective of his early and mid-career works lovingly offered up by a cast of talented singers under the staging of Kevin Black and musical direction of Caryl Fantel. But casual theatergoers will also appreciate his genius because the revue takes the numbers out of narrative and theatrical context; that highlights Sondheim’s technical skill, intellectual nimbleness and, contrary to reputation, the emotions simmering underneath.
Tanner especially is a pleasure because his warm, expressive baritone excavates the dramatic meaning from what a less skilled person would deliver just as a cabaret ballad...  He also carries those leading man looks with a light grace that makes him one of those actors you look forward to seeing in the cast roster of a musical.
The rest of the cast has its standout moments: Fernandez revels in the wry brothel madam’s song “I Never Do Anything Twice” pared down to almost nothing in the Sherlock Holmes film, The Seven Percent Solution...  Stansfield is droll as the third Andrews sister in the female trio song “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” and as the sardonically dry husband in a rocky marriage “We’re Gonna Be All Right” from Do I Hear A Waltz...  Wilhite, still finishing her MFA at FAU, exudes a winsome engaging personality as she belts “Broadway Baby” and plays off her castmates in “The Little Things (You Do Together)” and “If Momma Was Married” from Gypsy.  She shows a lot of promise..
Black’s staging is pretty straight-forward with actors strutting and strolling over steps and platforms in front of posters of Sondheim shows. Instead, he and Fantel have concentrated on ensuring a smooth presentation of the music. It would take an aficionado to notice, but they have cannily slowed the tempo of a few numbers just a whit to ensure that the glorious lyrics are understood.
Michelle F. Solomon wrote for miamiartzine:
It's a relaxing and enjoyable night of song with a capable four-person ensemble that performs the singing duties as well as doling out tidbits of pieces about one of modern musical theaters most prolific and lauded composers.
Stage Door's production features two pianists with their backs to the audience on each side of the stage playing uprights (Caryl Fantel and Mary Anne Morro's magnificent piano playing is as fun to watch as the performers).
The first duet is from Gypsy, with Priscilla Fernandez and Lynn Wilhite singing If Mamma Were Married. The two voices blend well in the storytelling piece about what life would be like for two sisters if their doting mother would be married off. Fernandez ends up being the stand out in the show and we get a glimpse of that with her vocal and interpretative mastery of the fast-paced tongue twister Getting Married Today from Company early in the first act.
Shane R. Tanner is the other stand out in the ensemble. His haunting I Remember... and wonderful interpretation of Could I Leave You? (Follies), usually sung by a woman who seeks a divorce from her husband, are both beautifully theatrical.
Don Stansfield is able to show off his comic sensibilities in nonsensical situations, which are crowd pleasers...
Director and choreographer Kevin Black keeps the show moving and finds places to insert some rich and lively moments to offer necessary context of the stand-alone tunes...  Stage Door's production is solid, fun and accessible and is sure to leave you humming a tune or two all the way home whether you knew them when you walked in the door or not.
Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre presents Side by Side by Sondheim at the Byron Carlysle Theater through December 23, 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment