Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

What did our critic think of BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley?

By: Jun. 10, 2024
Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
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Let the tributes begin, and there will be many. The enduring legacy of Stephen Sondheim’s music is ours forever and his works ensure he’s one of Broadway’s greatest composers. He is TheatreWorks’ most produced composer and Founding Artistic Director Robert Kelley collaborates with Resident Musical Director William Liberatore to celebrate the joyous and complicated human relationships prevalent throughout Sondheim’s musicals and plays.

Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
The cast (l to r: Anne Tolpegin, Sleiman Alahmadieh, Solona Husband, Noel Anthony Escobar, Nick Nakashima, and Melissa WolfKlain) embraces new possibilities.

Presented as a dress rehearsal, then a dress run through, Being Alive walks, its six-actor cast through all the vagaries of romance, from meeting, connecting, marriage, family, and dissolution all framed with a carefully selected collection of songs from over a dozen shows. It has a kind of Mickey and Judy let’s put on a show feel with a lot of Company thrown in. The cast is very talented with all vocal ranges from soprano, alto to tenors.

Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Helen (Melissa WolfKlain), the minister (Anne Tolpegin), and Gene (Nick Nakashima) kick off the wedding ceremony.

Broadway actor Anne Tolpegin (Les Misérables, Tale of Two Cities) makes her Theatreworks debut, and she shines on the more mature numbers like “Send in the Clowns” and “Could I Leave You.”  Sleiman Alahmadieh and Solona Husband also make their Theatreworks debut, and they join returning TheatreWorks performers Nick Nakashima, a fine comic actor, award-winning theatre workhorse Melissa WolfKlain, and  tenor Noel Anthony Escobar.

Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
The cast (l to r: Melissa WolfKlain, Nick Nakashima, Solona Husband, Noel Anthony Escobar, Anne Tolpegin, and Sleiman Alahmadieh) put a show together.

Thirty-five songs are presented in this revue, many easily recognizable from Sondheim’s more popular shows (Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, and Sunday in the Park with George) as well as some lesser-known tunes from Anyone Can Whistle, Saturday Night and Pacific Overtures. Two Sondheim shows currently on Broadway and tour, Merrily We Roll Along and Company provide some excellent choices. The choices for a revue are critical and, in this instance, fewer would suffice. The connective tissue holding the numbers together is also a major point given there is no real storyline except the song’s lyrics. Here the actors toss off a phrase to provide some exposition. I think perhaps Sondheim enthusiasts can gather the gist of the flow, so perhaps this is for the causal theatre goers.

Review: BEING ALIVE: A SONDHEIM CELEBRATION at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Ben (Noel Anthony Escobar) and Gene (Nick Nakashima) meet for drinks.

All the actors carry their solos, duets, and ensemble numbers well, backed by Liberatore on piano and Artie Storch on drums. Choreography is provided by Alex Perez with set design by Wilson Chin. “Being Alive,” one of Sondheim’s greatest compositions is feathered throughout the show and presented in total at the finale. There are plenty of highlights given both the material and talent of the singers: “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” and “The Little Things You Do Together” from Company, “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George, “Pretty Women” from Sweeney Todd, and “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods. This loving tribute is a treat for Sondheim fans.

Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration continues through June 30th. Tickets available at TheatreWorks.org or call 877-662-8978.

Photo Credit: Kevin Berne




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