Author Archive for: ‘CarolBenet’

“Sondheim! A Choral Celebration”

“Sondheim!   A Choral Celebration”

Carol  Beet

Under the directorship of the talented John Bisceglie, JB Presents has created a wonderful tribute “Sondheim! A Celebration” and all Sondheim lovers will be in seventh heaven.

The twelve fine singers and actors move around the stage under Bisceglie’s well coordinated and snappy choreography.  They have songs for which their different voices and personalities fit perfectly.  The feisty Tina Marzell belts out “Ladies Who Lunch” as a slightly tipsy society lady, the type who would spend much of her time lunching and grousing about it. Christian Castillo’s “Maria” backed up by the chorus is heartfelt and beautiful as is his rendition of “Johanna”.

Maggie Tenenbaum’s “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” is like a beautiful poem set to music, a talent that Stephen Sondheim demonstrates in so many of his lyrics. When was young Sondheim wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”  and then he composed both music and lyrics to his many shows.

Bisceglie has grouped songs from three individual shows.  It starts with eight songs from “West Side Story” and later another eight from “Into the Woods” and then seven from “Sweeney Todd”.  These shows were among Sondheim’s greatest hits.  In between are well-arranged songs, flowing  logically and musically from one to another,  from the other shows.  Castillo’s and David Ressler’s “Agony” is outstanding as is David Navarro and Torey Booksteins’ duet “Unworthy of Your Love”.

True to Sondheim’s advanced harmonies, “On the Steps of the Palace” is a difficult modernistic song that Nikki Arias sings with expertise as she paces herself and hits the correct harmonies.  The same for “Everybody Says Don’t” with a quartet including Castillo, Kessler,  J’aime Ciabattoni, and Rachel Krah singing this lively  song.  Laura Dekraker Lang-Ree’s solo “Loving You” is gorgeous.  Liz Hodge and and Ryan McBreaty round off the talented cast.  Where do all these fine singers in the performance rich Bay Area come from?

As for the production, Bisceglie show his artistic talent on every level.  The program books are small, colorful, of quality paper and comfortably fit in the hand.  They include all the important information about the twelve singers and other contributors.  Little tech touches such as the blood red lighting during end of the “Sweeney Todd Medley” are effective.  The lighting and sparkly curtain with the flashy stage borders are all very show-biz in the small Phoenix Theatre with seating of about 50.  Allen Guastavino is the able technical director.

The musical director Evan Crone has assembled a suite of Sondheim music that makes sense both musically and logically.  He has created much of the taped background himself and pastiched segments of music that they purchased from other sources making the entire musical event wonderful. The show runs through September 2, 2018.

JBPresents will stage the “Holiday Big Band Bash!” at the Great American Music Hall on December 9th from 6 to 9 in a cabaret arrangement where the audience is invited to dance to the music of the big band, The Mood Swing Orchestra, and enjoy presentations by 35 singers and dancers.  Drinks and food are available for purchase.  I’ll be there.  Wouldn’t miss it.

Holiday Big Band Bash info is listed at

or City Box Office 415 392 4400.