The Sondheim Review: Mixing Things Up

Artists from various musical disciplines re-imagined songs from Sunday

Originally published in The Sondheim Review.

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Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM! occupies a special branch on the Sondheim family tree. Stephen Sondheim holds a God-like (albeit offstage) position in the creative development of the central character, Jon, buoying the struggling songwriter’s sinking confidence with a well-timed phone call. The show is also notable for its loving tribute to Sunday in the Park with George’s title song, re-imagined as a meditation on brunch through the eyes of a harried waiter. The themes of mentorship and derivation in Larson’s musical inspired young composer Ben Wexler to create the Sondheim REMIX challenge in conjunction with a revival of tick, tick… BOOM! at New York City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series (June 25-28, 2014).

Writers, producers, and performers were invited to take a piece from Sunday “and remix it. Make it yours. Sample it. Adapt it. Run with it.” The range of submissions represented world music, spoken word poetry, electronica, folk, and rap, each demonstrating Sunday’s power to transcend cultures and generations. Continue reading

Talkin’ Broadway: Caroline, Or Change

Originally published on Talkin’ Broadway.

Jacqui Parker and Jacob Brandt

Everything about Caroline, or Change should work. The characters are interesting, full of the kind of emotion that practically demands show-stopping numbers. And the show-stopping numbers are in evidence, performed by a fantastic cast blessed with top notch pipes. There’s even at least three different “main” characters who provide the audience with openings for identification to offer easy entrée into the story, depending on who resonates most closely with you. So why is it that the technically excellent production ofCaroline or Change, presented by the SpeakEasy Stage Company in association with North Shore Music Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Calderwood Pavillion failed to move me?

The play concerns the intersection of two families at the time of President Kennedy’s assassination. Caroline Thibodeaux (Jacqui Parker) struggles to balance raising her own children – especially budding activist Emmie (Shavanna Calder) – with her job as a maid to the Gellmans. Stuart Gellman (Michael Mendiola) lost his wife and recently married her best friend, New Yorker Rose Stopnick (Sarah Corey). He has retreated into his own world, but she tries to reach out to his son Noah (Jacob Brandt), who really only wants to connect to Caroline.

There’s no shortage of talent on stage at the Roberts Studio Theatre. Parker brings almost supernatural power to the difficult score. She is matched note for note by A’lisa D. Miles, who gives voice to many of Caroline’s fantasies as both The Washing Machine and The Moon. Brandt has cornered the market on adolescent Jewish boys in musical theatre, shining even brighter here than he did in last season’s outstanding production of Falsettos. And Calder makes the adolescent dilemma of simultaneously rejecting and loving her mother feel immediate and real.  Continue reading