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Review Roundup: DO I HEAR A WALTZ? Opens at Encores!

The Encores! production of Do I Hear a Waltz?, the romantic, rarely-seen 1965 musical that marked the only collaboration of Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim, is directed by Evan Cabnet, with choreography by Chase Brock and music direction by Rob Berman. Do I Hear a Waltz? will run for seven performances at City Center, now through May 15.

DO I HEAR A WALTZ? stars Claybourne Elder, Melissa Errico, Sarah Hunt, Zachary Infante, Nancy Opel, Richard Poe, Michael Rosen, Sarah Stiles, and Richard Troxell.

DO I HEAR A WALTZ? tells the romantic tale of Leona Samish (Melissa Errico), a middle-class American woman who uses her meager savings for a long-dreamed-of trip to Venice, where she finds love, life, and her truest self.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Well cast and skillfully handled as a knowing chamber piece, Do I Hear a Waltz? beautifully sets the growing archness of Sondheim's lyrics to Rodgers' traditionally romantic and spirited melodies to tell an intriguing story of a naïve American learning to accept dreams that don't come true. Melissa Errico is a chipper bundle of buoyancy when first entering as the vacationing Leona Samish...But this is a rather complicated acting role and she believably hints at Leona's insecurities and loneliness...Opera star Richard Troxell makes an impressive musical theatre debut as Renato, the married man who gingerly seduces Leona...combining a strong, romantic tenor with weather-beaten charm. Karen Ziemba is deliciously savvy as the guest house proprietress who has seen it all and done even more...Whether it's because of the revisions of seventeen years ago or not, Encores!'s Do I Hear a Waltz? makes a strong case for the musical not being fully appreciated fifty-one years ago.

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Yesterday's love goddess is looking lovelorn today. That's not bad news, by the way. Because this same woman is wearing loneliness just as convincingly - and affectingly - as she once sported irresistible erotic allure. Melissa also providing a demonstration that time does not necessarily wither talent or presence. Portraying the abjectly unattached Leona Samish in the insightful Encores! revival of "Do I Hear a Waltz?"...Ms. Errico would not seem to be naturally wedded to her part...Yet while Ms. Errico is objectively as attractive as ever, she makes an unsettlingly fine ugly American. Sometimes mismatches can surprise you that way...In its current, beautifully assembled Encores! incarnation, directed by Evan Cabnet, "Waltz" still comes across as a show about the pursuit of passion that has little passionate urgency itself...I can't say that this "Waltz" ever thrilled me. But I was fascinated by every second of it, and by the unresolved conflict of talents it embodies.

Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: But as the current Encores! production demonstrates, the rarely seen show has many qualities that make it well deserving of another look...Rodgers and Sondheim famously didn't get along in their sole collaboration, and the tension is mirrored in the score which combines the former's trademark lyricism with the latter's caustic wit...None of it registers as among Rodgers' or Sondheim's best work, but even their second-tier material is superior to almost everyone else's. Still, the piece is most effective in the sharply written book portions, which, as staged by director Evan Cabnet, don't successfully mesh with the musical sequences. At first, the gorgeous Errico seems an unlikely choice for the role of a woman unable to find love, but the actress delivers an emotionally complex, haunting performance.

Joe Dziemianowciz, New York Daily News: American spinster Leona Samish travels to Venice to find romance, but doesn't get exactly what she hopes for in "Do I Hear a Waltz?" Sounds juicy - if not pulpy. And although the Encores! semistaged production doesn't hide shaky spots - how could it? - and is a bit dry and underwhelming, the show is a fascinating, seldom-seen curio. There are some terrific songs, especially for the male lead, plus surprisingly and laudably grown-up themes like morality and infidelity. The show, called "a musical play" in the script, is also a piece of fascinating theater history...Melissa Errico stars as Leona...Leona is by turns nice and neurotic. She's also a mean drunk. Errico traces those curves with gusto and her voice shines on such songs as "Someone Woke Up" and the title tune.

Matt Windman, amNY: The score is extremely uneven. Half of the songs show signs of the acerbic wit that Sondheim would employ to great effect five years later in "Company," while the rest are uninspired, hollow ballads. Laurents' book contains an interesting protagonist in Leona, a lonely secretary who seeks romance while on vacation in Venice, but the storytelling is often static and sleep-inducing. As directed by Evan Cabnet, this is an elegant production of a work that is better off left in the drawer, as a footnote to Sondheim's unparalleled career. Melissa Errico gives a smashing lead performance as Leona that ought to leave theatergoers puzzled as to why she is not landing more starring roles.

David Finkle, The Huffington Post: Do I Hear a Waltz? is the one with lyrics by Rodgers family-friend Stephen Sondheim, whose arm doesn't need to be twisted in order to have him go on about how unhappy the brief partnership was...What can be said is that the results are right up there with some of the best scores Rodgers helped turn out -- and Sondheim's agile words are also among his most devilishly clever...But even as she broadens her outlook, Leona remains, as Laurents has written her, a difficult character. Unless handled with extreme care, she's not very likable -- not far removed from the typical naïve American tourist expecting special treatment wherever she goes...Though singing as well as she always does, Errico hasn't found the key to making Leona sympathetic, appealing despite her spite...A large part of the Do I Hear a Waltz? score is how Rodgers and Sondheim spread their goodies around. All the supporting players benefit...Evan Cabnet directed amiably from his concert adaptation.

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Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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