|Martin Everett - Tim Sekuless - Jay Cameron - Katerina Smalley
and Directed by Lexie Sekuless for Belco Arts.
Lexi Sekuless, Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless
Carl Rafferty. Choreographer: Annette Sharp
Arts Centre 29th June to 2nd July 2022.
on 30th June reviewed by Bill Stephens
When he died
at the end of 2021 at the age of 91, Stephen Sondheim left a remarkable legacy
of musicals and songs. Sondheim’s ability to create brilliant musicals which
explored dark contemporary themes and complicated emotions through words and
music was unparalleled, and even in his lifetime he was celebrated as a master
of the art of musical theatre.
characters in his musicals often examine interior thoughts set to music, his songs
demand acting skills as well as fine voices, and can stand alone as complete creations
outside the musical for which they were written.
death there has been a wave of shows around the world featuring Sondheim’s songs
in revue format to pay tribute and celebrate his legacy. Among these “A Sonnet for Sondheim” is an
Sonnet for Sondheim” Lexi Sekuless, a driving force behind Lakespeare and
Artistic Director of Canberra’s newly
announced professional theatre company being created for the Mill Theatre, weaves
sonnets by William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Elisabeth Barrett Browning
among songs from Sondheim musicals, among them, “Sunday in the Park with
George”, “A Little Night Music”, “Anyone Can Whistle”, “Into The Woods”, the
little known “Passion” and “Evening Primrose” and “West Side Story” for which
Sondheim wrote the lyrics only.
because all the publicity images for the show, including the program images,
featured glamorous costumes, the production was presented as a rather unruly
rehearsal or audition, with the cast wearing decidedly unglamorous rehearsal
gear. No design credits are given in the printed program so apart from Annette
Sharp as choreographer, and Carl Rafferty’s, listed oddly as Pianist, rather
than as accompanist or musical director, Sekuless was responsible for all other
creative decisions as well as performing as a member of the cast.
isn’t easy” as Sondheim wrote in his song “Putting It Together”. Firstly it was
never clear whether the audience was watching a rehearsal or an audition. At
one point a singer finished her song with a testy “Is that what you want?
“. It was unclear whether she was
directing her remark at the pianist or some unseen director. Another song finished with the singer looking
out into the audience as if expecting some sort of confirmation of her
performance from a director.
members of the cast which included Sekuless herself, together with Jay Cameron,
Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, and Tim Sekuless are all members of the new
Mill Theatre company, and it was an interesting choice by Sekuless to use this
production to introduce them to audiences. All come with excellent credentials and the
format offered the opportunity to showcase them in a range of material.
However, the rehearsal setting did them no favours because it set up the
thought that the performances they offered in the first half were tentative
rather than fully rehearsed. It also set up an expectation that the
performances in the second half would feature fully realised interpretations.
These hopes were dashed when the show resumed after interval with no changes of
costumes, setting or performance level. It may have been wiser to dispense with
are competent singers, it was interesting to note that some seemed more
comfortable with the spoken text, and the “A Chorus Line” style introductions
in which they introduced themselves.
wrote lyrics that demand attention and need no decoration from the
performer. The interpretations that
worked best in this show were by those in the show that understood that and let
the lyrics work for them. Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley and Martin Everett all
understand this and each offered highlights, as did Sekuless herself in a
beautifully restrained rendition of “I Remember” from “Evening Primrose”.
|Carl Rafferty - Lexi Sekuless
wrote songs which demand bravura performances. Tim Sekuless offered one of
these with his madcap performance of “Buddy’s Blues” from “Follies”, a hideously
difficult song that famously defeated Mandy Patinkin. Annette Sharp provided
another highlight with her witty choreography for “You Could Drive A Person
Crazy” from “Company” which captured exactly the right tone for this song.
|Tim Sekuless - Katerina Smalley - Jay Cameron
seemed a good idea to include sonnets by other authors, it was not always clear
as to their relevance to what Sondheim was saying with his songs. It was a
mistake to follow the excellent finale choral arrangement of “Sunday” from
“Sunday in the Park” with an encore of a choral arrangement of the
introspective “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music”. Even though it
was musically charming, this arrangement masked the lyrics, and detracted from
the effect of “Sunday” which in any case at this performance was spoilt by bad
Carl Rafferty - Jay Cameron - Katerina Smalley -Tim Sekuless - Martin Everett
added value with her performances as a member of the cast, Sekuless may have
been wiser to concentrate on her directorial responsibilities because there
were enough good moments in the show to indicate that if more directorial
attention had been paid to the stage picture, sound balance, correcting the
varying levels of performance among her excellent cast, the pacing of the show and
even making better use of the excellent lighting facilities available in the Belco
theatre, “A Sonnet for Sondheim” may have reached the professional level it
Images - Andrew Sikorski
This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 1st July 2022.