Midvale Main Street Theatre’s “Andrew Lloyd Sondheim” is a Lovely Tribute Filled with Song

Andrew Lloyd Sondheim cast pic by Antonio Garcia

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.

ALS Unexpected Song Garcia and son

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.

ALS Marry Me A Little Lowry

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.

ALS Macavity MC Speer, JC Speer, Garcia

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.

ALS Being Alive-Lowry, Garcia, Dale, JC Speer, MC Speer

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      midvaletheatre@gmail.com                                                         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

 

 

The Echo’s Twelfth Night is One Good Long Laugh

12th-4By Jennifer Mustoe

The Echo has given us several excellent Shakespeare offerings and its current offering, Twelfth Night, has much to recommend it. Directed by Eve Speer, the show has many laughs and my companions and I had a good time watching the frivolity onstage.

As you walk into the Echo’s lovely space, you will really be blown away by the gorgeous set designed by Antonio Garcia. It may be one of the loveliest sets I’ve ever seen. Really. It has a big wave and fabric on the walls like sails. Twelfth Night begins with a shipwreck. The set is covered with nautical-looking boxes and such, and with a nod at alcoholic Sir Toby, bottles all over the place.

The show begins with music and the array of musical instruments that the actors play is quite impressive: an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, played by Archelaus Crisanto (Duke Orsino), who is also the musical director, a French horn, a cello and vocals by all actors. There are several songs and I liked the way the actors slowly entered and joined the songs. However, there were too many songs and they each seemed too long. The energy and sound were great, but since the show is 2.5 hours long, the music slowed the show down.

The show itself, as many Shakespeare plays are, is about confusion. Two characters, a brother and a sister, each think the other is dead. Viola (Sarah Butler) portrays her brother Sebastian (Carter Peterson), whom she thinks has died in a shipwreck. Viola falls in love with Duke Orsino, but he thinks she’s a boy and he is already in love with Olivia (Sophie Determan) who can’t stand Orsino. However, she is quite taken with Viola masquerading as a man.

The funniest parts of the show were when Sir Toby Belch, played winningly by Matthew Carter Speer, is onstage. He is brilliant, willing to make lots of physical choices that are hilarious. His scenes with Parker Forest Olson (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) are a delight. Lots of movement, the scenes zip by and I laughed the whole time they were onstage.

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One of my favorite choices by director Speer is she divided the role of Feste the fool between two talented actresses: Celene Anderson and Robbin Ivie. These two young women are similar in looks and build and combined with almost identical costumes (costumes by Mandee Wilcox) and amazing timing, this was one of my favorite parts of the show. The actresses sang in harmony, but it was their lines, all on top of each other and sometimes in unison that I found the most enjoyable. An excellent directorial choice and bravo to the two actresses.

Archalaus Crisanto’s Duke Orsino was impressive in that Crisanto’s voice filled the space the best, though I had no trouble hearing anyone in the cast. Crisanto is a talented actor and his singing was also a delight. The other standout is Leah Hodson who plays the unfortunate and much maligned Malvolio. Hodson is brilliant in this role. Because this version of the play is not gender specific, Hodson playing what is written as a male character makes the role even funnier.

This show is played for laughs and you will laugh a lot! I saw many moments of brilliance in this show and I don’t remember laughing this hard in a show in a very long time. It is, as I said, two and a half hours long, so be prepared for that. Though there is nothing that is overtly inappropriate for children, I would say that older teenagers and up, especially those who like Shakespeare, will enjoy this show.

Twelfth Night

The Echo Theatre, 15 N 110 East, Provo, 801-375-2181

January 15 – February 13, M, Th, F, S 7:30 PM, Matinee Jan 24, 2:30 PM

$8.00-$12.00

TheEchoTheater.com

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