Review: Danielle Ferland In SING FOR YOUR GHOSTS at The Green Room 42

Danielle Ferland returns with Story and Song.

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What happens when the painting is finished? After ‘happily ever after’ comes and goes? For Danielle Ferland, who burst upon the Broadway stage at age 12 in iconic performances in SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE and INTO THE WOODS, these questions have marked penultimate moments - not only in art, but in the real world as well.

In her new show, SING FOR YOUR GHOSTS, which premiered at The Green Room 42 on May 20, Ferland, who remains an ever-endearing musical theater maven, explores the inverted fairy tale of ‘ life in the theater’ meets ‘life in the real world’ at age 10, 15, 40 and beyond, in a funny, irreverent, and deeply personal musical biographical sketch.

The kind of kid who perhaps only ever could have been ‘cool’ doing theatre (not that theatre ever mattered to the ‘cool’ kids at school) and who unexpectedly had to learn to temper the “I Know Things Now” lessons learned backstage at a young age with the more restrictive lessons provided within the confounds of a religious household, Ferland’s rise, as she recounts it, is one of not so much serendipity, but blunderful accident. 

After reluctant musical serenades to an aunt in a wheelchair reveals a little girl with a very big voice, a cattle call audition for a new Sondheim musical results in a surprise casting. After turning down the part, and doing a 180 when the show’s director, one James Lapine, calls and tells her parents, “they might be making a big mistake,” Ferland unexpectedly finds herself plucked from the pastures of rural Connecticut and dropped wide-eyed into the not so kid friendly 42nd Street of the 1980s.

Recounting musically what happens next, and the resulting complications of life on Broadway as an everyday pre-teen girl with raging hormones, Ferland puts us into eyes which seem to paint everything from ‘Nathan the Hot Dog Man,' to Mandy Patinkin’s rhythmic stroking of the canvas as positively orgasmic. A wolf costume with realistic genitalia leads to its own - natural -  realizations (“Goodbye Little Girl”).

Working with writer Abby Sher on a tightly scripted patter, Ferland, throughout, retains the cheeky and playful innuendo, and the bright, clear as a bell belt she is best remembered for.

As musically directed by Brian Nash, the show surveys an appealing cross section of music; from pop hits of Ferland’s childhood, to Broadway standards, and likely for most audiences, most happily, a healthy dose of Sondheim. Lyrics along the way are often rewritten as parodies and mashups, which successfully take us on Ferland’s journey, if perhaps at the expense of showcasing Ferland's organic gift for musical storytelling. When Ferland rips thrillingly into straightforward renditions, as she does with  “Now You Know” from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, her sizable skill connecting music and lyric reminds why she will forever be identified as a preeminent Sondheim interpreter.

Wistfully reflective, without ever resorting to the self reverential or self pitying, SING FOR YOUR GHOSTS also reveals Ferland to be a rare child star who, as an adult, is firmly grounded on her feet.  Throughout, Ferland allows us to feel that there are dreams still to be accomplished, but with the acknowledgement that letting go of childhood (and the notoriety that sometimes comes with it) gives way to other things - family, partnership, children- that offer their own rewards.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, the evening is most successful in highlighting the early impact of love and mentorship. In her case, her relationship with her Mother and her friendship with Stephen Sondheim.  Meeting her dorky equal in the brilliant, puzzle-minded ‘Steve,’ Ferland offers a hilarious rap recalling a potpourri eating soiree at Sondheim’s townhouse, while a moving tribute to her mother in "Children of Art,” as combined with Sting’s eulogical, “Fields of Gold” brings childhood lessons to full circle. Other side trips, and musical diversions recalling weekends at Christian musical camp are entertaining, but feel less on target thematically.

Watching Danielle Ferland recall her journey through music, so far, a Sondheim song I couldn’t help but think of  - one she doesn’t perform, but which seems to personify her resilience - is “Move On.”  After all, when the self examination is done, what’s left but the simple truth that fairy tales are never really ever finished. And stories are simply stepping stones to the next experience. With Ferland, here, welcomingly returning to center stage where she belongs, we can only be excited to imagine what her next penultimate chapter will reveal.

Visit the Green Room 42 website HERE.


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​BRADY SCHWIND is an award winning writer and director whose work has been seen in Los Angeles, New York and across the United States.Brady directed a completely re-conceived production of CARR... (read more about this author)



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