Well, they've done it again. The Theatre at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, under the exceptional leadership of Artistic Director Scott RC Levy and the fantastic direction and choreography of FAC Associate Director of Performing Arts Nathan Halvorson, has mounted yet another outstanding show. This time, it's Stephen Sondheim's Putting It Together. My short review: It's freaking brilliant, and you need to see it. Get online and buy your tickets right now. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Putting It Together is a revue of around thirty songs by Stephen Sondheim, whom many consider to be the greatest living composer for musical theatre. Don't take my word for it.  “Stephen Sondheim has written some of the best musical theatre of the last 50 years,” says Performing Arts Director Scott RC Levy, “and will go down in history as one of the most important American composers of the 20th Century. The FAC has a strong history of producing his work, and when thinking of which show of his to do next, I thought of this piece, which features so much of his beautiful music from pieces throughout his career.” For those Philistines unfamiliar with him, Sondheim started out writing the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, and went on to do both music and lyrics for such classic shows at A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods. If you don't know any of those shows- stop reading this and go see one of them. Now. I am sure, no matter where you live in America, you can find a production of at least one of Sondheim's shows that is within driving distance. (If you live in Alaska, you can watch the movies of the four shows I just mentioned.) Again, I'll wait.

Putting It Together takes place at a cocktail party where five people examine each other, their relationships, and their lives. The five characters are the Husband, the Wife, the Younger Man, the Younger Woman, and the Other Man. Over the course of the party they slowly reveal their hopes and regrets, along with dreams deferred. And worse than the dreams that didn't come true are the dreams that became realities, but didn't meet expectations. As you can probably tell, this is not a show about bunnies and happiness and skipping along singing tra la la. But I like a little meat to my entertainment, a little bit of reality and intelligence and understanding of the human spirit. It's like Steinbeck said in East of Eden: Life made to look beautiful to the weak and the foolish teaches nothing, cures nothing, and does not allow the heart to soar.

Putting It Together features an all-star cast: Max Ferguson, Sally Hybl, Jordan Leigh, Scott RC Levy and Mackenzie Sherburne. They are all first rate performers. They not only have beautiful singing voices, the have a certain depth of emotion that allows them to fully interpret these complex, at times hilarious, at other times harrowing songs. FAC stalwart Max Ferguson is perfectly cast as the at times obnoxious, at times confused Younger Man. He exudes a desire to be manly along with an innocent charm, and infuses that mix perfectly in songs like Marry Me a Little.  Mackenzie Sherburne, as the sultry Younger Woman, is sublime. Her performance of The Miller's Son (from A Little Night Music) is superb. It's a haunting, funny, sad song that requires both the pipes of a great singer and the intelligence of a great actor, and Sherburne has plenty of both. Scott RC Levy is hilarious as the other man ( a role originated by Christopher Durang). He opens the show with a perfect rendition of Invocation and Instructions to the Audience, which is a riff on the now standard opening speech given before most theatrical productions. And Levy's practically stops the show with his explosive performance of I Could Drive a Person Crazy. As the married couple, Jordan Leigh and Sally Hybl are a revelation. They are just perfect. There is never a moment when either of them are on stage that you don't watch their every move. They play that all too familiar unhappy couple who dig at each other behind weary smiles, full of passive aggression and resentment- but also a deep yearning for connection. In act one, they sing the duet Country House, from Follies- and it's electric. Watching that number was like being at a party where a couple gets into a nasty fight, and it's awkward and strange and you don't know whether to leave, make a joke, or cry. And in act two, we get treated to Leigh signing Sorry-Grateful and Hybl singing I'm Not Getting Married Today. These are two of the best performers I have ever seen, in Colorado or New York or anywhere- and to be able to see performers of that caliber sing songs of that greatness is insane and rare and glorious. 

Nathan Halvorson directed and choreographed,
and clearly brought out the best of each member of the cast. He moves the show along at a brisk pace, and brings enough levity to never let it get too bogged down in tragedy. And the band! Oh my God the Band! According to the program there were only four musicians playing- but I could have sworn it was an entire orchestra. Sharon Skidgel conducts this amazing group of artists, and provides piano as well. (I think she might be either a mutant or from another planet, because it's impossible to be that good). The set, by Christopher L. Sheley,  is both simple and elegant; the costumes by Janson Fangio are subtle and excellent; and the lights by Holly Anne Rawls are gorgeous- theatrical and full of color but never detracting from the action on stage.

All in all, an exhilarating, funny, thought provoking show. Now go see it! Here are the details:

When: 7:30p Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2p Sundays, running Sept 10-27
Where: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tickets: Starting at $20; 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org
Something else: Pay-as-You-Wish dress rehearsal at 7:30p Sept 9; Backstage Tour on Sept 24, free with paid admission; talkback with the performers following the final performance on Sept 27
Another thing: Their new restaurant Taste will be open for pre-theatre dining. Make reservations at 719.634.5583. We ate there before the show and it was fabulous.


David F. Thomas said…
I have known Dr. Sharon Skidgel since she displayed her exceptional talent as an early teenager. How I wish I could hear her perform currently.

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