LETTERS TO EDITOR
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A CurtainUp LA Review
This new revue is a generally entertaining if not always exhilarating theater piece. It draws perhaps too heavily from those Sondheim musicals (Saturday Night, Anyone Can Whistle, Merrily We Roll Along, and Passion) which the drama critic Mark Steyn, trying to understand their appeal, has wittily named "Cult Flops".; Steyn's point is the charge of snob appeal, the unwarranted assumption by some that these works must be good precisely because they$&39;re not popular, that since Sondheim is indeed a writer of demonstrated genius, he must necessarily have been after bigger fish to fry in these works than those people who demand witty lyrics allied to good tunes could possibly appreciate.
What little context is provided for the 42 musical numbers is in the form of tape-recorded, largely wry, occasionally cynical observations by Sondheim himself on such general themes as living in New York City, friendship, love, work, solitude, and so on. Mixed with some real gems among the songs are a considerable number of unhummable - - and to this ear verbally undistinguished - - little pieces sounding distressingly alike and perhaps losing much of their richness and point in being divorced from the works in which they originally appeared. In fairness, it should be pointed out that the audience seemed largely and equally appreciative of just about every selection, even the flag-waving finale which, though undeniably timely and just, unfortunately went over the top. The unconverted who felt themselves from time to time baffled by the vigorous cheering were clearly outnumbered.
One undeniably successful feature of the production is the energy and skill of the five performers who dance and sing their hearts out. They are Christopher Carothers, David Engel, Ann Morrison, Teri Ralston, and Tami Tappan. They alone are worth the price of admission. Though all distinguish themselves, Engel and Tappan should be singled out for the memorable tap dancing in their performance of "The Old Piano Roll," from Follies,perhaps the high point of the evening.
Equally successful are the inclusion and singing of two songs early in the second act. These were the only songs of the evening whose opening bars drew anticipatory applause from the audience. Significantly, neither of them has music composed by Sondheim, only lyrics. Their names:"Something's Coming" from West Side Story and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. Perhaps there's a telltale sign here that has been generally overlooked.
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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