...with a very nice production of the musical revue Side by Side by Sondheim, featuring musical direction by Colin Britt and Emmett Drake, and vocal performances by Brynn Lucas, Dana Mierlak, Meg Richardson, Catherine Rogala, and Scott Scaffidi.
A talented cast, they tackle this tribute to early (pre-1974) Sondheim with aplomb. The revue has a very loose plot following Ms. Richardson and Mr. Scaffedi, but the real focus is on the power of the individual songs. Among the many highlights: Ms. Lucas's "The Boy From," Mr. Scaffidi's "Marry Me a Little," and Ms. Rogala's "Anyone Can Whistle," a song that was new to me and, in the space of three minutes, has become a new favorite of mine:
I can dance a tango.
I can read Greek -- easy
I can slay a dragon any old week -- easy.
What's hard is simple.
What's natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free.
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me.
I, after all, can't whistle...but I can read Greek.
True to Mr. Sondheim's body of work, there was a nice mix of the dramatic and the comic, the solo and the ensemble. Messers Britt and Drake have fun with "Everybody ought to Have a Maid" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Lucas, Mielak, and Rogala go all out on their rendition of the stripper number from Gypsy, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."
Sondheim can be decidedly difficult to perform, and Ms. Lucas's performance of "Getting Married Today" highlighted it. I could tell, due to the size of the POP space, that she was enunciating every word in the excessively fast song (while acting the hell out of it too -- with lotsa of physical comedy!), but I still couldn't hear much of it. The singers were not mic-ed (a fact by which I am always pleased), but it made what Ms. Lucas was asked to do almost impossible. I applaud her heartily , as did the audience, for clearly giving it her all.
And, maybe it's my age, but while Ms. Mierlak sang two wonderful songs, "Send in the Clowns" and "I'm Still Here," and sang them wonderfully well, I couldn't help but think "She's too young for those songs."
One more idiosyncratic quibble, "All I Need is the Girl" needs some tapping in its performance. Mr. Scaffidi did some movement but a bit o' tapping would have made it all the better.
Quibbling aside, the show runs through the 19th. If you like Broadway songs done well by professional musicians and actors who clearly love what they do, get to Playhouse on Park before it closes.
(And, if you go next Saturday, be sure to stay for the Open Mic after the performance. Yes, you can perform your favorite Broadway hit accompanied by Drake and Britt, or sing along with everyone else, or just sit and enjoy! Last night's was very entertaining -- with older daughter even taking her shot with "Popular" from Wicked and "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Besides, it's a chance to spend more time at POP, and who doesn't want that?)