Monday, 16 May 2016

DO I HEAR A WALTZ at City Center Encores

     Is there a more devoted audience than the one for the City Center Encores series? These are folks who really care about musical theatre. They're also curious about past musicals and often quite knowledgable. The folks around me at the Saturday matinee performances of DO I HEAR A WALTZ (music, Richard Rodgers; lyrics, Stephen Sondheim; book, Arthur Laurents), had all read Laurents' memoirs. Two gentlemen had been involved with productions of Laurents plays during their students years. Everyone, of course, knew the work of Rodgers and Sondheim and the unhappy saga of the creation of DO I HEAR A WALTZ in 1964.
     What can one say about this show that Sondheim didn't say. He described it as a "Why" musical, a show that has no reason for existence. There's no reason for the characters to sing. There seems to be more book (a condensation of Laurents' play, THE TIME OF THE CUCKOO) than music and, except for the title song and one ballad, the music is forgettable. Sondheim's lyrics are better than the music.
       The production was enjoyable because of the superb performances of a top-drawer cast. Melissa Errico gave real star quality to the leading role, a lonely 40-ish secretary looking for romance in Venice. Richard Troxall didn't look very Italian, but he sang beautifully and gave substance to the role of the Italian shopkeeper with whom Leona has a brief romance. Karen Ziemba was wonderful, as usual. The rest of the cast did all they could to make a weak show enjoyable. Rob Berman conducted a large, excellent orchestra. The choreography (Chase Brock) was cliched, but Evan Cabnet's staging was very effective.
      Not a show I want to see again, but I'm glad I had this opportunity.  

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