The Visalia Players’ production of “Side By Side By Sondheim” offers zany and fast-paced entertainment for the entire family. Produced in the Lobby of the Ice House Theatre, the musical comedy is an intimate look at Sondheim’s work during the first half of his illustrious 50-year career as a lyricist and composer.
Director Sharon DeCoux, who is no novice when it comes to directing, acting and mounting theatrical productions, admits, “This is the fourth time, I’ve directed this show. Despite the fact that I haven’t a musical bone in my body, I know how to stage musicals, and I know what I want. I depend heavily on my musical director to see that my visions come to fruition.”
DeCoux is capably supported in the current production by Merina Amos as musical director. Amos has a degree in vocal performance and has performed with opera companies throughout California. Amos notes that Sondheim is a particularly interesting lyricist/composer in that “at a time when most Broadway shows were featuring light heartedness and happy endings, Sondheim was interested in showing life as it really is. He became universal because of his focus.”
DeCoux selected Corey Ralston, who recently directed the very popular “Bonnie and Clyde,” as her co-director. “I’m happy to help Sharon,” said Ralston. “I am not normally drawn to Sondheim, preferring rock and pop musicals, but as we rehearse, I’m gaining an appreciation for his work.”
Although Sondheim is known as a composer, his abilities as a poet originally brought him to fame when he wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story.” As his career progressed, he was frequently both the composer and lyricist as was true for such successes as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Company” and “A Little Night Music.”
Songs from these popular shows and more are showcased in “Side By Side By Sondheim.” The revue features a narrator who provides interesting insights into what happens with a show on its way to Broadway. The music is performed by Richard (Rick) Adamson, Marla Alberstein, Amos, Darleen Hampson, Ralston, Craig Wilson and Megan Wright.The singers are supported by two pianos led by Ayla Draper.
On Sunday, November 23 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Leeni Mitchell, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
Side By Side By Sondheim runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia. Evening performances are at 7:30pm on November 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29, and matinees are at 2pm on November 16, 23 30. To purchase tickets, visit www.visaliaplayers.org, the Facebook page “Visalia Community Players,” or call 734-3900.