Kritzerland #72, Take Me to the World—The Songs of Stephen Sondheim, was the first repeat in the series six-plus years’ history. Sorta kinda. Producer/host Bruce Kimmel replaced a few songs with others from the large Sondheim oeuvre, switched the running order and spiffed up his commentary. Of course there was an entirely new cast of performers for the show which took place at Sterlings Upstairs at the Federal on November 6. For this avowed Sondheimholic, it was pure nirvana. A majority of the songs probably came as a surprise for some in the audience because they were cut from shows or were from flops that few people have ever seen or heard. Mr. Kimmel even managed to work in a song this viewer had never heard, “Dawn,” from an unproduced musical film titled Singing Out Loud that Sondheim wrote for director Rob Reiner. Carly Bracco did a lovely job with it and she really rocked the fast paced “Another Hundred People.” The show got off to a melodic start with Robert Yacko booming out the bombastic “Make the Most of Your Music,” a song that was written for the London production of Follies. Rumor has it Sondheim wrote it as a sort of dig at the more popular Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Yacko also impressed with “Multitudes of Amy,” one of four versions of a song Sondheim wrote to end Company, which finally ended up being the classic “Being Alive.” The rarities also contained “Truly Content,” a song written for a Jules Feiffer musical that director Mike Nichols was preparing but never got on stage. Maegan McConnell did a lovely job with this song. McConnell really let her soprano soar in “Green Finch and Linnet Bird.” McConnell joined with Amy Gillette for Mr. Kimmel’s all-time favorite Sondheim song, the bitter “Every Day a Little Death.” I must admit this song has always been my favorite from the score of A Little Night Music, especially as sung by Diana Rigg in the awful film version. The more famous song from that score, and Sondheim’s only real pop song hit, “Send in the Clowns,” got a special rendition by pianist extraordinaire John Boswell, who worked in motifs from other songs into his playing. Boswell provided excellent musical accompaniment throughout. Gillette earlier had sung an impassioned “Everybody Says Don’t” as well as a very plaintive “Take Me to the World.” Marc Ginsburg did a lovely job with “Anyone Can Whistle,” which at one time was Sondheim’s own favorite of his songs; it still may be. Ginsburg also did a more adult take on the fairy tale themed “Giants in the Sky.” Sami Staitman possessed more lung power than Madonna as she powered her way through “More” from the film Dick Tracy. Staitman earlier was joined on stage by her equally young friends Samantha Rosenberg and Carly Shukiar for an “only in Kritzerland” version of “Getting Married Today,” sung in the perfect harmony style of the McGuire Sisters. Jenna Lea Rosen only had one spot to shine in the evening and boy, did she steal that spotlight. I have seen this young performer grow and mature over the past three years. Her put-together of the chirpy number from Follies, “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow,” slowed down here to torch ballad simmer, joined with one the torchy-est songs of unrequited love “Not a Day Goes By” from Merrily We Roll Along” had the audience cheering. In olden days, Broadway musicals would be written for this talented performer. Hopefully she will soon be doing a solo cabaret act and recording albums. Brava Jenna Lea, a true Sondheim Diva!
November 7, 2016: