We attended the Rep last night. The show was Side by Side by Sondheim—A Musical Entertainment. This 4+ actor review (5 if you include the MC) showcased Steven Sondheim’s works across his long and storied career. Sometimes the songs performed were with both his music and lyrics, but sometimes they only had his lyrics and a collaborator’s music. Some of the 28 songs performed were memorable favorites, but sometimes they were rather obscure. The first song was Comedy Tonight the famous opening tune from A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Forum. Interestingly, it was not the original opening number. That honor originally fell to Love is in the Air, which is much less up tempo. The musical was bombing until the switch.
The MC would introduce the songs a few at a time, grouping them using some common thread. The pictured actors would then perform the works, singing and dancing them to the accompaniment of two piano players. The actors went through frequent costume changes, from one song to another, often with rather risqué attire. Once the MC speaking about the show Gypsy mused that “once burlesque was both small and intimate. Now it is performed on a broad stage out in the open, and we call it musical theater.”
At intermission two rather hoity-toity couples at the end of our row left the theater in disgust. Maybe it was the risqué costumes or some of the songs sung, like Can That Boy Foxtrot, where the word foxtrot is enunciated in a manner that suggested the F-word. Categorized as one of those obscure Sondheim tunes, it was written for Follies, but was cut from that show in Boston, in its run up to Broadway. Even since the time of Steven Woolf as artistic director of the Rep, there has been pushback from some about some of the artistic choices made. Last night’s performance was held at COCA, which is outside the purview of the sisters of Loretto. One of the hoity-toity people said that he thought that the performance was “cheap.” Maybe it was not a comment about production values, like I thought at the time, but rather a comment on its lewdness.