Thursday, April 8, 2021

At This Theatre: The Stephen Sondheim

This month's column is really a tale of two theaters, a before and after, if you will. One of my all-time favorite shows played at the "before," and several shows I was underwhelmed by played the "after." The good news is that the complete reconfiguration of this theater offers much better sight lines, comfortable (relatively spacious) seating, and an entrance that is both practical and dramatic. Knowing that I won't get leg cramps and that I will get a great view from the last row of the mezzanine or the front row of the orchestra makes me look forward to returning to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

At This Theatre:
The Henry Miller's/The Stephen Sondheim

Shows We Saw There: The Henry Miller's: Urinetown: The MusicalThe Stephen Sondheim: Bye Bye Birdie, Anything Goes, Beautiful

How They Rank: I have a feeling that my rankings this month will generate some fun email. But I like what I like.

4. Anything Goes:
I loved the 1987 revival of this Cole Porter relic. This revival, not so much. Was it the bland scenery? The bland direction? Well, that had something to do with it. But mostly, it was the uncomfortable miscasting of Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney. (To be fair, the rest of the casting was good.)

3. Beautiful:
 Here's another show that everyone seemed to adore - it did run forever a long time. Aside from the excellent music, this was a live Behind the Music that showed very little creativity in the staging or the book. I mean, seriously, was Carole King's life really that easy and problem-free?

2. Bye Bye Birdie:
Here's a show I enjoyed quite a bit. Colorful and splashy, and a score that I adore, this revival made me feel so happy. And I thought John Stamos and Gina Gershon were terrific together. (I loved them both in Cabaret, albeit separately.) It made a real case for fun, nostalgic revivals.

1. Urinetown: The Musical:
 This one, as I noted above, I saw when it was the Henry Miller's. It was the perfect venue for this particular show, with its dingy, run down interior a perfect match for this dystopian comedy. Heck, even the roof leaked! And the bathrooms (come on, I had to go considering the show) were dark and dank. Since they gave out free postcards from racks on the walls above the urinals, and there was humorous signage throughout the area, I have to assume this was part of the overall environmental design plan. The show was great, and the theater was really the icing on the cake.


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