BWW Review: ATTEND THE TALE OF SONDHEIM 2 at Bikuben, Det Norske Teatret
Bikuben at Det Norske Teatret has proven to be the ideal arena for smaller cultural events of that would otherwise struggle to find a home in the commercially driven theatre scene, be it theatrical, musical, poetry or all the above. This new season started off last Friday with a sold-out small Sondheim-concert at the foyer stage of the theatre. In the spirit of "Side By Side By Sondheim" there were two female performers (Heidi Gjermundsen Broch and Mari Lerberg Fossum), one male performer (Øyvind Boye Hansen Løvold), a narrator (Johan Osuldsen) and an accompanist (Trond Lindheim).
Apart from one Sondheim-revue in mid-eighties titled Send in the Clowns and two versions of Sweeney Todd with variable success, there haven't been any Sondheim-productions at this theatre, so I am grateful that his work that his songs gets a presentation in the vestibule, if not on the main stage.
Each number was presented with insights and anecdotes from Johan Osuldsen, who in addition revealed that he had chosen certain songs because he wanted to hear them done by these specific performers. I occasionally glanced at him and saw that we shared the same gleeful smile witnessing certain high notes during the evening.
Depending on how you view these times of political turmoil it was maybe fitting or unfitting to start the show off with "Everybody's Got The Right To Be Happy" from Assassins, as the song is about shooting American presidents. But it also shows just how contemporary Sondheim is. The lyrics sound just as satirically fresh today as back in '91 when they were written.
Highlights during the evening were "Sunday in the Park with George" performed by Mari Lerberg Fossum. She sang and acted the hell out of the song, while she also got to show softer sides of her voice in "I remember" from Evening Primrose. Fossum also recently played the part of Clara in Passion at the Opera House in Norrland, Sweden, so they also perfomred the duet "Happiness" with Øyvind Boye Hansen Løvold in Swedish. Løvold has a soothing high baritone voice that accompanied her voice exceedingly well. He also gave one of the other highpoints of the evening with a very true rendition of "Finishing the Hat." Elegantly translated by Hilde Skappel.
Mari Haugen Smistad was the evenings (surprise) guest. She performed "Marry me a little" with Norwegian translation written by Osuldsen originally for the 2010 Bergen production of Company. I loved her take on Bobbie, and her rendition is evidence of how much narrative and acting that is required when performing a Sondheim song.
Heidi Gjermundsen Broch first presented "So Many People" from the not often performed revue Marry Me a Little with her signature pathos and tenderness. So it was refreshing that she later brought the house down with "Roses Turn" from Gypsy. She confessed before singing that she was a little timid about doing the song, but her strong belt voice and acting was very well suited for this number.
The final number of the evening was "Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd" which the entire audience had to sing along with the performers on stage. I truly enjoyed the concert. The informal way these productions at Bikuben are performed adds to the charm of the concept and will enrich the Norwegian musical theatre scene.