Side by Side by Sondheim Opens Northern Stage’s 25th Anniversary Season
And what’s with Stave Puzzles?
The Upper Valley’s Stave Puzzles and the late musical genius Stephen Sondheim?
There’s a connection. Tucked inside the program of Northern Stage’s current production Side by Side by Sondheim is a revelation by sponsor Stave Puzzles that since 1990, it had collaborated with Mr. Sondheim “to create keepsake gift puzzles for cast and crew members to commemorate each of his productions. The puzzles, featuring the promotional artwork for that show, included personalized puzzle pieces unique to each recipient and thoughtfully chosen by Sondheim himself.” (Other celebs are among Stave Puzzles’ customers too.)
One band (Jacob Carll, Danny Santiago, Mitch Perrins) played, and four actors—Cordell Cole, Susan Haefner, Jamie LaVerdiere, and Elexis Morton—sang and danced through a summer scorcher at Northern Stage’s outdoor Courtyard Theater this past Saturday afternoon, bringing favorite and not so well known Sondheim songs to life. There is no plot in this production but there are occasional tidbits from the stage about Sondheim’s works, including stories of songs that were cut from earlier musicals, shows that ran for years (Company) and those that saw less success (Anyone Can Whistle, a mere nine performances though it was recently revived for a one-night only show at Carnegie Hall.)
Cole and Morton (above) charmed with a duet of “The Little Things (You Do Together),” a number that segued into Morton as Amy, performing “Getting Married Today” from Company. If you have seen a production of Company you know that audiences wait for this piece as it is wildly clever and so lightning fast that it’s a challenge to sing along with, even in your head. Kudos to Morton for maintaining the humor and the pace. (A nod here to the late Beth Howland, who originated the role on Broadway.) Jamie LaVerdiere not only sings but weaves his way through a satisfying emotional arc in “Being Alive.”
As for Susan Haefner, years ago I wrote of her ‘Is there anything Susan Haefner cannot do?” I repeat the question. She’s naughty in “I Never Do Anything Twice,” appropriately snarky as the ex-mistress of a besotted newlywed (Jamie LaVerdiere) in “You Must Meet My Wife.” Wait for the moments when she sings “Send in the Clowns,” the most melancholic song (“I thought that you’d want what I wanted”) of love and loss.
Such a gift was Stephen Sondheim. Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne describes his importance:
Sondheim broke through barriers in American musical theater by proving that a musical can be just as complex as a play, that lyrics can be as nuanced as dialogue, and that songs can express emotions that are perhaps even deeper than words.
If you are already a fan, you know. If less familiar with Sondheim, this production can help get you up to speed, though it is but a sample of his work.
Side by Side by Sondheim, the opening production of Northern Stage’s 25th Anniversary season, runs through July 10. For further information and to purchase tickets, please click here.
Welcome! You’re reading Artful, a blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley, and I hope you’ll subscribe and then share this with your friends and on your social media. And in case you are wondering . . .
Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.