By Susan Knight
I’ve lived in Midvale for a few years now and was pleased when asked to review Andrew Lloyd Sondheim at the Midvale Main Street Theatre, right in the heart of Midvale.
Featuring the talents of Karli Rose Lowry, Jim Dale, Eve Speer Garcia, John C. Speer, Matthew Carter Speer, the cast sang, cabaret style, songs from Follies, Cats, Evita, Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, and more.
This production, held only one night, August 5, to celebrate the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim was, what Garcia called, a passion project—very aptly named. The passion for the songs and for each other was easy to see. Most of the audience consisted of family and friends—nice support for the quintet onstage where the fourth wall was broken many times for laughs.
There was no particular set. The stage held props that were probably used from other shows. The cast sat on stools with music on stands, and occasionally got up and walked or danced around and interacted with each other.
Beginning together with “Broadway Baby” from Sondheim’s Follies, the singers broke off into solos, duets, and trios for the other songs—23 altogether—with an intermission in the middle.
The show was billed as hilarious, moving, and thrilling. Some parts were definitely hilarious, especially when Lowri and Dale sang “The Priest Song” from Sweeney Todd. Their timing was impeccable and Lowry is a natural for Mrs. Lovett. I enjoyed watching her facial expressions and gestures. Dale has played Sweeney Todd previously and was at ease and convincing in the part.
I laughed out loud at “You Could Drive A Person Crazy” from Sondheim’s Company. Lowry, John C. Speer, and Garcia sang the song to Matthew Carter Speer, who stood and took all the ridicule of the song sung to him with aplomb. Great moments.
Moving happened when Garcia brought her young son, Dan, onstage so she could sing “Unexpected Song” from Webber’s Song and Dance to him. Her voice has an incredible range, reaching the high notes with ease and ending on one of the lowest notes a woman could be expected to reach. I was also impressed with her range when she sang “Buenos Aires” from Evita. And when Lowery sang “Marry Me a Little” from Sondheim’s Company, I had to hold onto my hat because she filled the whole room with her voice and then quietly mesmerized us with her angelic soprano with perfect vibrato—all in the same song. Heaven.
Thrilling occurred during the very last song when the ensemble created five-part harmony singing “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George. Describing George Seurat’s Impressionistic paintings in a song was so poignant and full of metaphor. Now I want to see that musical. I’ll have to look for it. It really touched my heart. I felt privileged to hear their heartfelt interpretation and it was a wonderful farewell song to cap the show.
At the beginning of the performance, the elder Speer told the audience there’s a line about Andrew Lloyd Sondheim in the show “Rock of Ages” and that’s what gave the cast the idea to sing the wonderful songs composed by these talented men in cabaret style. And for trivia lovers, serendipity that Webber and Sondheim were both born on March 22, though 18 years apart.
This show was suitable for all ages, especially for those who love Broadway and ballads, and the evoking of our favorite memories of the theater. There were children in the audience and sometimes the cast graciously acknowledged them and sang to them. Garcia’s son was given cat ears and interacted with his Uncle Matthew who played Macavity in the song of the same name from Webber’s Cats. Cute.
I think my favorite song of the evening—if I could pick a favorite from so many superb renditions—was the elder Speer singing “Love Changes Everything” from Webber’s Aspects of Love. The words were so moving and really touched me. Speer’s voice was spot on and my friend commented how much she liked his voice.
My friend had never heard most of the songs so it was all new to her. We were both a little confused why women were playing men’s parts when the men could have done it. For instance, Garcia sang “We Do Not Belong Together” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George to Lowry, who played George. It was also confusing when Lowry sang “Gethsemane” from Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Her rendition was amazing, but we scratched our heads at the casting choice. There were other songs she could have sung from that show.
Otherwise, the parts were appropriate for the person, even including when the men parodied the women in Sondheim’s Gypsy while singing “Gotta Get a Gimmick.”
The theater was small and intimate; the seating was comfortable with small tables in between every two or three chairs. It was sometimes hard to hear the voices over the piano, but this was not the case in all the songs.
Produced by John C. Speer, the performance was directed by his daughter, Garcia, and choreographed by Lowry. Musical orchestrations were by Alex Marshall. Tammy and Cassidy Ross of the Midvale Main Street Theatre controlled the board with light and sound.
The cost of the performance was “pay as you will.” As I said, this was a passion project and not done for the money, but for the love of the theater and the music. Here’s hoping there will be another cabaret-style performance in the future from these talented actors.
Andrew Lloyd Sondheim was performed one night only, August 5, at 7:30 PM at the Midvale Main Street Theatre, 7711 South Main Street (700 West), Midvale, Utah 84047. 801-566-0596 firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets were “pay what you will.” The next show at the Midvale Main Street Theatre is The Rocky Horror Show, October 5-21, 2017. Facebook Page Facebook Event