Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beautiful Girls

Marin Mazzie

A revue of songs about women, written by Stephen Sondheim and sung by Marin Mazzie, Donna McKechnie, Jenn Colella, and Zoe Caldwell--what could possibly go wrong? Here's what: Lonnie Price could direct and write the "continuity." Price is a master of schlock, and he did not miss an opportunity to insert a stupid joke or an annoying bit of business. His decision to interrupt a lovely overture of songs from Follies (beautifully played by the Manhattan School of Music Chamber Sinfonia) with a truly embarrassing bit about three of the performers not knowing when the show started revealed immediately that he was more interested in displaying his (far-from-prodigious) imagination than the genius of Sondheim and the great talent of the performers. His two running gags--age jokes and bitchy competition between women--were not only dated and puerile, but they also were insulting to the intelligence and professionalism of the performers and really tiresome to the audience (not to mention arguably sexist). For the time he devoted to his directorial/writing schtick, there could have been three or four more songs--and we were there for the songs. Luckily, Price's tastelessness was not enough to completely ruin the evening. Any occasion to hear Sondheim's work with a full orchestra is a special occasion--after all, if you pay $135 to see A Little Night Music on Broadway you only get to hear a small band. Many of the performances were wonderful--for example, Donna McKechnie's "I'm Still Here," Jenn Colella's "Anyone Can Whistle," and Zoe Caldwell's "Liaisons." The highlight of the show was anything and everything by Marin Mazzie, from her angry "Not a Day Goes By" to her heartfelt "Every Day a Little Death" to her best-I've-ever-heard "Miller's Son." (An unexpected treat occurred when Mazzie's mike died and her voice rang out, unamplified, clear as a bell, gorgeous. I was sad when they fixed it.) Someone needs to write that woman a show!

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