Chichester: Sondheim is challenge for new company
Chichester Community Theatre brings Side by Side by Sondheim to the Riverside Theatre, Chichester College as it continues to seek out new challenges.
Performances of the show – a revue made up of Sondheim material – will be from Tuesday, July 26-Saturday, July 30 at 7.30pm (plus Sat mat at 2.30pm). Caroline Bennett, Kenton Budd, Betty Jones, Lisa McNaught and Oscar William Smith make up the cast, under the direction of Chichester Community Theatre founder Roger Redfarn.
“I have always been a great Sondheim fan,” says Roger, “and as some of his work has been done at Chichester Festival Theatre including Sweeney Todd, I think a lot of people around Chichester like Sondheim. But actually this is a very challenging piece. These are not just songs. They are full of relationships. They are full of human emotions. Some of the songs are almost one-act plays.”
Roger is delighted with the way the production will carry things forward for the group which made its debut last year with the WWI-inspired No 60 to the Somme and offered Mad Dogs and Englishmen for this year’s Festival of Chichester: “Side by Side will be our fourth production. It is important that we don’t just settle into a pattern, doing a play because we have got to do a play. I want to look for things that are always a bit of a challenge, perhaps unusual.”
Roger has actually directed the current show professionally, in Hong Kong in the late 80s: “I had four Australian singers and Annie Ross, the jazz singer. We then went on tour in the Far East.”
Roger saw the original production of Sondheim’s Follies on Broadway three times: “I have seen a lot of his work. I just love his music, his lyrics and the way he treats things that don’t often get dealt with in a musical, like marriage, break-up, all the human emotions, and I just think he understands women so well… “I actually did a production of Gypsy as well, with Noele Gordon and Fiona Fullerton. The only one I have never done and would like to do is Follies. To my mind, that’s probably the best musical of all time, again just the way he treats human relationships. I just think he touches everyone slightly with moments of great emotion.”
Roger concedes Sondheim is certainly a Marmite composer, inspiring a fair amount of loathing amid the admiration: “People say he doesn’t write tunes. But I think he writes wonderful tunes and melodies. But you have got to work as an audience to appreciate him, and I think that is good. It is not just in your lap like Hairspray. You have to work at it. But the other thing that interests me is that to perform it you have got to be much more than just a singer. You have got to act. All the time, you are digging deep. I don’t believe you can really do any of the songs unless you know the show it has come from. You can sing Oklahoma! or you can sing Shall We Dance?, those sorts of things, and that’s great, and I love Rodgers & Hammerstein, but something like Sondheim will be challenging you all the time.”
Tickets £14 on www.chichestertickets.co.uk or on 01243 813595.
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