Sondheim on Sondheim
Sedos have got versatility down to a t, the last show I reviewed for them was Sunshine on Leith, a musical with songs by the Proclaimers and my current visit was to see Sondheim on Sondheim, two musicals that couldn’t be further apart stylistically.
Sondheim on Sondheim is a musical revue featuring an eclectic mix of Sondheims songs, including songs that have ended up on the cutting room floor interspersed with video interview footage of Sondheim himself. The show was originally conceived under the title Moving On and played at the Bridewell Theatre, the very same venue that Sedos are performing at for their run which is a lovely full circle moment for this show.
This is a show that is undoubtedly aimed at hardcore Sondheim fans. The show featured many of the more obscure numbers from a variety of his shows so rather than expecting a night full of songs that a casual musical theatre lover may be familiar with it was a chance to either discover these obscurer numbers or for those that do know them already, see them performed outside of the setting of the show itself. As someone who would say that they like rather than love Sondheim (I know that is blasphemous for many) it did leave me longing for numbers I knew on occasion. There was also very little in the way of light relief and most of the songs within this review were serious or very earnest. I would have loved to have heard ‘Agony’ in there or songs of a similar ilk to help the show have more frequent moments of comedy within it.
One of the strengths of not only the show but also in it’s execution by Sedos were the new arrangements of Sondheim’s music. It was wonderful to hear songs sung in harmony that are normally sung as solos and it was this area in particular that Sedos excelled at. The moments when the entire cast were on stage, singing in harmony, were my highlights of the night. The MD, Adrian Hau must be commended on the hard work that must have gone into getting such a glorious sound from the cast.
Whilst talking about Adrian Hau I must also commend the band. Playing Sondheim is no easy task but this 8 piece band managed to make it sound seamless. Combined with a great sound design by Adam Coppard which ensured that the band and vocals were well balanced and the harmonies blended it was a professional sounding show.
The show was directed by Tess Robinson and she ensured that the production was exceedingly slick. The show itself is just short of 3 hours but luckily for the audience Tess had woven the songs together seamlessly ensuring that as soon as one song finished the next cast member was there ready to pick up the next song. The set was simple but well utilised with a few levels which was just enough to keep the staging interesting but not too much that it was distracting or overly complex.
The cast was made up of 15 very strong performers resulting in the aforementioned wonderful choral singing however there were also some moments where the soloists got a chance to shine. Adrianna Cordero-Marino got a chance to let her beautiful legit soprano voice soar during ‘Do I Hear A Waltz,’ and Nick Dore inhibited an earlier iteration of Bobby for ‘A Multitude of Amys,’ during which he demonstrated a wonderful warm tone. There were some songs within the show that are, by their very nature, more character driven which did struggle in this kind of setting and possibly could have done with bolder character choices to get this across but overall it was a well delivered and considered piece with depth, not something that all reviews can boast.
On the whole the cast were dressed in black as costumes throughout the show. There were the odd moment such as during some of the Merrily We Role Along segment or ‘Gun Song’ where additional elements were added. I did wonder if these were really necessary as adding jackets etc for one number but not for another just confused the theme slightly.
Overall Sondheim on Sondheim is a dream of a show for Sondheim aficionados, for others less interested in him it is a chance to discover more about the man himself and his lesser known numbers however it did verge on Sondheim overkill for me. That being said whilst the debate can rage on as to if Sondheim is God (yes that is one of the songs is the show) one thing that you can’t argue over is that Sedos did this show justice bringing it back to its roots!
If you want to find out more about Sedos then visit their website here.