In the past month, I have seen three Stephen Sondheim musicals in the local DC community. As a singer, I absolutely adore his music and lyrics. I find them to be at once complex and beautifully simplistic. His songs (stories) always take me on journey whether I am the performer or the listener.
I started my Sondheim month by seeing Sweeney Todd at the St. Mark’s Players in SE Washington, DC. Featuring two of my amazing students, Brevan Collins (Tobias) and Carla Crawford (Ensemble), the story came to life in this church space under the direction of my good friend Christine Callsen. I have seen several productions of Sweeney Todd and, of course, the 2007 feature film with Johnny Depp. This is musical theatre at its’ finest with captivating and intriguing music. By no means an easy score to sing, all of these characters have complex harmonies, wide ranges, and overlapping melodic lines. Personal song favorites are “Johanna” (beautiful…please listen if you don’t know this song!) and “By The Sea” (just a fun character piece).
Next in my journey was Into The Woods Jr. at Aldersgate Church Community Theatre. Featuring a cast of 8 to 18 year olds, this production featured several of my students. I always enjoy this show! It has characters that we all know from childhood fairytales, imagined in a brand-new light with music that is memorable and fun to sing! An attention to diction is essential in this show as the songs have lots of detailed words, move the story forward, and bring these characters to life. When I think of this show, I immediately hear the music for “Moments in the Woods”, “On The Steps of the Palace”, and “Children will Listen”.
I closed the current winter DC Sondheim tour with Road Show at Signature Theatre. This is Stephen Sondheim’s most recent musical. It has been reimagined several times (I did not see the original incarnations) and includes actor-musicians in the ensemble. I could absolutely hear Sondheim’s voice in this show through the musical storyline. It is a one hour and 40 minute show with no intermission (a little unusual for Sondheim) and has orchestrations that are written for a small number of instruments (primarily piano and violin). Memorable songs for me are “The Best Thing That Ever Happened” (I really loved the relationship between Addison and Hollis) and “Addison’s Trip”.
It is no surprise that there seem to be a multitude of Stephen Sondheim shows playing in the DC area. Road Show is Signature’s 26th production of a Sondheim musical! If you are unfamiliar with this composer, please seek out his work on iTunes and find a production to see. Vocalists can learn so much from studying his music in terms of diction, breath support, pitch, harmonization, patter, and song interpretation (distinct character choices).