Minimalism accented by pleasantly surprising hijinks was the theme of the Fantastick Theatre Company's second ever production, "Putting It Together: A Stephen Sondheim Evening." Aside from a few mishaps, (an open fly, the number one pre-show checkpoint) the performance went smoothly.
The show was composed of lyrics and tunes by Stephen Sondheim, the much celebrated and/or reviled Broad-way musical theater composer whose works include West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Company. But Sondheim's works have always rung true with words at once witty, humorous and often insightful. To many, he's the one who added drama and humor to that highly formalized entertainment called the Broadway musical. His songs are not merely decorations of an overly ornate storyline nor are they flashy showstoppers. Instead, they are integral components of character development that just happen to be hummable ditties. Only minor choreography is needed to underscore the message within the songs.
Staged in the bowels of the Adams House Pool Theatre, the show featured an electronic keyboard, played by Freedman, nestled in the corner of a slightly elevated stage. The stadium-like seating actually allowed an unusual intimacy between the other four performers and the audience. This was convenient during an early part of the evening when audience participation played a part in Purohit's rendition of "Sooner or Later," a tune from Dick Tracy.
The actors' outfits were simple white shirts with black pants, as if to reflect the simplicity of Sondheim's philosophy about his work, or perhaps to follow the precedence set by his watershed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a one-set, one-costume show.
Of the myriad songs chosen to be part of the show, there were a few highlights among the staple of ballads. Aaron D. Rosenberg '99 was the most theatrical of the four with his spirited choreography in "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" from Follies. His entertaining expressions and adept use of a cane were complemented by Purohit's and Chandler's efforts as his two love interests. Rosenberg and S. David Foley '98 were quite successful in their duets, especially in the comic "Agony" from Into the Woods. Their sweet harmonies belied Sondheim's hilarious wording.
But the most light-hearted moment of the evening was Foley's interpretation of his favorite Sondheim song, "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, a jingle definitely written for someone of the fairer sex to sing. The last song, "Side by Side by Side," was a smile-tugging tribute to the hard-working, oftignored musician in a production, in this case represented by Alex E. Freedman '00.
The women had their moments as well, if not as memorable as the men's. "If Momma Was Married" was the best of the bits Tara B. Purohit '99 and Marisa L. Chandler '99 performed together. Their individual performances were passable, though Purohit and Foley deserve kudos for their convincingly sorrowful expressions during the ballads.
Still testing out the waters with their newborn acting troupe, the Fantastick Theatre Company provided good entertainment considering their paltry resources. They have great potential for improvement and success in their November production of another Sondheim musical, Merrily We Roll Along.
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