Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of PASSION at Signature Theatre?
Natascia Diaz, Claybourne Elder, and Steffanie Leigh are starring in Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical Passion at Signature Theatre. This new production is directed by Associate Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner (Signature's Sunday in the Park with George, West Side Story). Passion runs through September 23, 2018 in Signature Theatre's MAX Theatre.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Peter Marks, The Washington Post: As I've indicated, though, allow yourself to be swept up in Sondheim's swoon of a score - a series of gentle compositions that attempt a musical version of heavenly immersion - rather than the mundane mechanics of melodrama, to appreciate this remarkable work. It's of no minor consequence that the show opens with Giorgio in bed with Clara (the wonderful Steffanie Leigh), the married Milan socialite with whom he is carrying on an affair, singing "Happiness." The musical is obsessed with the mysteries of what essence of another human being makes one happy. And the notion is reinforced in the production's physical dimension: a stage that divides the theater into two bleachers, and a beautiful set constructed down the middle by Lee Savage that's crowned by a ceiling of what looks like a thousand wedding bouquets.
Bob Ashby, DC Metro Theater Arts: Signature has a long history of doing Sondheim well, and this production is no exception. Every aspect of the show is beautifully realized, every character is finely delineated, and Sondheim's rich, romantic score is played and sung to perfection. For any Sondheim fan, it's a must; for anyone who has not seen Passion before, it can be a revelation.
Sarah Dudley Brown, The Zebra: This production is so intimate, the audience is never more than a few yards away from the action on two sides of a runway-like stage with a sinuous staircase rising on one side and a generous balcony about a floor above the deck of the stage on the other side. Most importantly, at all times, you can hear every word of Sondheim's brilliant rhyming schemes that push the story ever so gently, but firmly toward a surprising, but ultimately supremely satisfying conclusion.
Benjamin Tomchik, BroadwayWorld: Elder is stately and handsome as Giorgio. Having seen him as George in Signature's Sunday in the Park with George, and now in Passion, his voice seems perfectly constructed for Sondheim. There's a distance to his character which Elder uses to help navigate between the two women in his life. He and Leigh are absolutely ravishing in the opening number "Happiness", not an easy task considering that are both naked and frolicking in bed.
Roy Maurer, DC Theatre Scene: A Signature favorite playing against type, Diaz dominates Passion with a mesmerizing performance. Her achievement has been to interpret Fosca's obsessive derangement into a heartbreaking pieta that compels compassion. Made up like a cadaver, costumed in funereal dress, she exudes wretchedness. Fosca's declarations of love could be repulsive in another's delivery, but Diaz highlights her kindness and agony with a disarming and urgent forthrightness.
Robert Russo, Stage Left: Mr. Elder, performing in his tenth Sondheim show to date, is an attractive and cerebral Girogio. His take is reserved, but the magnetism in his scenes with Ms. Diaz is palpable, compelling, and simply captivating. The two are a remarkable pair. As for Ms. Leigh, she makes the least impression as Clara, an admittedly less interesting character who fades from view as the frustrated and unlikely relationship between Girogio and Fosca fitfully blooms.