Last night, we went to the Pasadena Playhouse to see their current show, Side by Side by Sondheim. The production we saw had Richard Kind (of Spin City fame) as the narrator; and Davis Gaines (of Phantom of the Opera fame), Julie Dixon Jackson, and Tami Tappan Damiano as the singers. The show wasn’t well attended; I guess our showing was only 50% full.
For those unfamiliar with this show (sondheim.com link), it is basically a revue of Sondheim material from before 1977; thus, you won’t see selections from better known pieces such as Sweeny Todd, Assassins, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and so on. The material is primarily from Company, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle, Gypsy, and West Side Story, with a few other shows thrown in. The selections vary based on the cast.
I enjoyed the show, but they seemed to choose (for the most part) the slower pieces that really don’t show some of the true lyrical talents of Sondheim. I felt that the collaborations got short shrift: only one or two songs from Gypsy or WSS, and the choices weren’t such gems as America or When Momma Gets Married (although almost anything from Gypsy is good). There was only one tune from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (and it was the title tune).
There were some hilarious moments, such as Davis Gaines playing the third stripper in You Gotta Have A Gimmick (Gypsy), or some of the interplay during The Boy From … (The Mad Show). There were also some surprise songs: I was totally unaware that Sondheim had written Broadway Baby; I really want to get the album from Follies now. I also recognized the song I’m Still Here (Follies), although I don’t know where I heard it before (perhaps a compilation album). I was already quite familiar with the songs from Company (which I like). The number from Pacific Overtures didn’t impress me much. I remember when P.O. came to the Ahmanson in 1976, although I didn’t see it then.
The singers were all good, although I wasn’t too impressed with Davis Gaines. His voice was marvelous, although he was overmic-ed. He also didn’t have the right look; I would have preferred someone like David Garrison. Still, it was a good production.
Update: One thing I forgot to mention. We had dinner at Tropical Caribbean Rest. across the street from Burger Continental, our usual pre-theatre joint. We probably won’t be back. They didn’t indicate on the menu when a dish had bell peppers (bad), and although some of what we had was excellent, the entree was only so so. I had a Lechon Cubano which had tasty onions, but on the whole I prefer the Cuban Roast Pork at Versailles. gf_guruilla had a chicken dish that was covered in peppers (which wasn’t indicated on the menu): she said it was tasty, but not what she was expecting. On the other hand, she had an appetizer that was some form of Caribbean tamale (I’m sure tuluum could give us the real name, perhaps) that was a mix of some meat and green plaintains served on a banana leaf. You can find a formal review of the restaurant here. Next time, we may try one of the other Caribbean restaurants in Pasadena (as long as they are not in Old Town, which is too crowded).