“Side by Side by Sondheim,” playing its last three performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 9, 10 and 11) at Paliku Theatre, is a revelatory musical on several fronts:
• It deconstructs the theater fan’s notion that Stephen Sondheim is not for everyone. Indeed, the lyricist’s works feature a mouthful of lines — some with music by other composers like Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers and Mary Rodgers — but his style is poetic and advances storylines. In other words, you may not be familiar with his tunes, but in the context of a musical revue like “Side by Side,” you get to experience the scope of his magic on a wide spreadsheet of life experiences, from love to pain, from unsual relationships to imaginative hope, from the romantic to the comedic. In short: it’s no shame to hop onto the Sondheim bandwagon now — better late than never.
• The local cast assembled by producer Tom Holowach (he doubles as narrator) for this bon-bon of stage nourishment, is extraordinary and exact. Each trouper brings something wonderful to the party, with distinctive, varying styles and textures, suiting the premise and essence of the Sondheim mindset. The ensemble brings precious, personal instincts to the material at hand, and the revelation is simply that Jade Stice, Kim Anderson, Shari Lynn and Kip Wilson are first-rate actors as well as vocalists, using nuance of their vocal instrument to suggest and sustain the tone and theme of their songs. And for the most part, these aren’t the easiest songs to sing.
• A revue like “Side by Side” doesn’t land on an island stage too frequently; the last time was 1986, when Shari Lynn coincidentally was in that presentation, and the show, like the performers, have mellowed with time, respecting the lyrics of Sondheim and embracing his storytelling curve. That said, this is one of the season’s true surprises, mounted by Holowach with direction shared by actor Wilborn and choreographer Ramon del Barrio, who show wisdom and style in mounting this jewel.
• With virtually no sets, but occasional projections to set mood or punctuate a point, “Side by Side” depends on the audience to bring imagination and attention to yield color and finesse to the landscape. And here’s the rub: You may be whistling perhaps four to six tunes as you exit the theater, but you’ll savor the trove of treats each performer (as soloists, duo, trio, quartet or quintet — radiates a luminous glow over the next few days.
Yes, it’s that good. So joyous, you wonder why more folks aren’t joining the hurrahs and ovations at the final curtain.
Two pianists — Emmet Yoshioka and Sara Cate Langham — provide accompaniment, a la Ferrante and Teicher (remember them?) and this works very well, since the format is intimate yet supportive, never overpowering the vocal artistry but embellishing it.
There’s plenty to applaud:
• Shari’s dramatic, you-can-hear-the-pin-drop solo, on perhaps the most well known of Sondheim hits, “Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music.”
• The combative, explosive “A Boy Like That” and “I Have a Love” medley, from “West Side Story,” with Anderson and Slice taking warring female sides of the battling gangs, in that memorable take on “Romeo and Juliet.”
• Wilborn’s continental bon vivant flair, on “Barcelona,” the see-sawing emotional endeavor from “Company.”
• Anderson’s francais-flavored “Ah Paree!,” rich with enthusiasm and amour, from “Follies.”
• Shari’s exquisite and hilarious “The Boy From…,” a bossa nova send-up of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Boy From Ipanema,” from a modest and little-known show called “The Mad Show.” (And oh-so-funny, with her delivery of an unpronounceable place).Curiously, this daffy ditty features lyrics penned by Sondheim, who used — who knows why — the monicker Esteban Ria Nido for his credit.
• A taking-turns shared favorite, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” with Stice, Anderson and Shari playing the strippers in “Gypsy,”complete with idiosyncratic bumps and grinds from the days of vaudeville.
• Shari’s “Broadway Baby,” the stage anthem from “Follies,” with terrific body language and belting notes.
• Stice’s “I Never Do Anything Twice,” a Sondheim left-fielder from the movie,
“Seven Per Cent Solution,” with a tale and another tale about relationships.
• Shari’s “Getting Married Today,” a piece de resistance from “Company” often logically dubbed the “rapid fire patter song” and delivered with break-neck, air-gasping, teeth rattling speed of 75 mph (or so it seems). A show-stopper, with Shari enacting a jittery bride on steroids, with words deliciouslystickingtogetherlikethis. Whew!
So much fun, so much artistry, so much solid showmanship.
Go. See. Enjoy. Applaud. If you love theater, you'll adore this one!
‘SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM’
A musical revue featuring songs by Stephen Sondheim
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 9) and Saturday (Oct. 10) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Oct 11).
Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Commmunity Colllege
Tickets: $29 adults; $26 seniors 62 and older, active duty military, University of Hawaii faculty and staff; $20, students and youths through age 25
Reservations: 235-7310 or www.eTicketHawaii.com (under Performing Arts/Paliku Theatre); a $3 service charge applies to online sales