Arts & Humanities

'Sondheim on Sondheim' at Utah State University

Utah State Theatre, the production side of USU's Theatre Arts Department, presents "Sondheim on Sondheim" Feb. 2-7 at the Caine Lyric Theatre in downtown Logan.

Sondheim on Sondheim, Utah State University’s Caine College of the Arts’ (CCA) first theater show of the spring semester, takes the stage at the Caine Lyric Theatre Feb. 3-7 at 7:30 p.m., with an additional matinee Feb. 7 at 2 p.m.

Sondheim on Sondheim is a unique musical revue in which Stephen Sondheim, considered by many to be the ‘father of modern musical,’ speaks openly about his work and artistic process through a series of video clips that introduce more than 40 songs from his impressive body of work,” said Ken Risch, head of the Department of Theatre Arts in the CCA and the show’s director.

Risch said the show is like sitting in Sondheim’s living room and listening to him share stories about his life and career, some of which are extremely personal, and then having a few people stand around a piano and sing his songs.

“While there have been other Sondheim revues compiled over the past few decades, this is the first that features Sondheim himself as the primary focus,” said Risch. “The program is both entertaining and educational for anyone interested in musical theater.”

The performance features well-known, lesser-known and cut materials from 19 Sondheim shows produced over a 62-year period, including West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods and more.

“The first musical I ever did was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and over the past 45 years I have had the good fortune to have been involved in a number of Sondheim’s other musicals,” said Risch. “The first record I owned was the movie soundtrack to West Side Story which was my favorite as a teenager. As time passed and experience shaped my perspective on life and relationships, my ‘favorite’ Sondheim pieces changed. At this point in my life, Sondheim’s Follies, with its haunting story of older couples forced to look back at the paths they took that led to their present circumstances, speaks to me in many subtle ways.”

Sondheim’s music and lyrics are challenging for young performers, so Risch had the cast of the show spend six weeks just learning the music.

Risch said there is so much to explore musically and textually. He said Sondheim’s writing is very close to the experience an actor would have while learning Shakespeare. It requires a great deal of work, but the rewards are truly significant in terms of personal and artistic growth.

“It’s not just about learning to appreciate this amazing man’s work, it’s also about watching nine young performers enjoying the opportunity to share their love of his work with an audience,” said Risch. “We have had a great time working on this material and hope that the audience will see that, as well as gain an understanding of why Sondheim holds such an important place in musical theater history.”

The cast includes Molly Cameron, Belen Moyano, Kimberly Muhlestein, Rebecca Soelberg, Kyra Sorensen, Stirling Brenna, Jared Campbell, Michael Francis and Zedrick Evans, with each playing multiple roles throughout the production.

Sondheim on Sondheim plays Feb. 3-7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Caine Lyric Theatre, 28 West Center Street, Logan. In addition to the evening performance, a 2 p.m. matinee is Saturday, Feb. 7. Tickets are $18 adults, $15 seniors and youth, $10 USU faculty and staff and free for USU students with ID. For more information or tickets, contact the CCA Box Office in room L101 of the Chase Fine Arts Center on USU’s Logan campus, call 435-797-8022, or see the college’s Production Services website.

Related links:

Caine College of the Arts Box Office

USU Theatre Arts Department

USU Caine College of the Arts

Writer: Whitney Schulte, 435-797-9203, whitney.schulte@usu.edu

Contact: Denise Albiston, 435-797-1500, denise.albiston@usu.edu

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