Sopranos sample Sondheim: WSU music professor's revue features Broadway composer

Kyle Ross is Fredrik from “A Little Night Music,” Pseudolus from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” a sailor from “Pacific Overtures” and the judge in “Sweeney Todd.” Altogether, Ross plays nine roles in just one production as part of Washington State University School of Music’s 12th annual summer musical.

click to enlarge Set design is simple, said "Song by Song by Sondheim" creator Julie Anne Wieck, who provided an image of the backdrop.
Set design is simple, said "Song by Song by Sondheim" creator Julie Anne Wieck, who provided an image of the backdrop.

But that’s the case for the rest of the cast, too.

Julie Anne Wieck, associate professor of music, conceived and directed “Song by Song by Sondheim,” a musical revue that explores popular, and not so well-known, compositions by Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim.

A revue is a multi-act theatrical production that combines dance, music and a bit of dialogue, and in this one, Wieck cast eight students, herself and Brian Carter, a voice faculty member.

Popular Sondheim musicals include “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Company.” Sondheim wrote lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” too.

“This summer I decided to do shows that would fit the students, but also to challenge them to grow in the areas they need to grow,” Wieck said of the all-soprano cast.

Wieck has been challenged herself, being that this is the first revue she’s created and been in.

“I’ve been yelling at them to memorize, but then I have to memorize,” Wieck said. “I get to be on stage with some of these students and be interacting with them and see the growth that every single one of them has made.”

Unlike a musical or play, this revue has no plot.

“In a musical, there’s the progression of an actual plot line, and you can feel it moving toward a climax and it resolves from there,” said cast member Olivia Borges, who said the revue differed, because “it’s the progression of Sondheim as a composer, but not necessarily a story line.”

Borges said the revue allows audiences to see the variety of Sondheim’s work.

“Between the variety of ‘Sweeney Todd’ that’s so dark as opposed to a ‘Weekend in the Country,’ and how lively and funny and interesting those can be,” she said of the upbeat song from “A Little Night Music.”

Kyle Ross said the revue is a good opportunity to sample Sondheim musicals, including the not-so-popular ones, and get a taste of the real thing.

They will leave, he said, “wanting to see a full production,” he said.

“Song by Song by Sondheim” is a play on words from “Side by Side by Sondheim,” a musical revue also featuring Sondheim songs. Its title is derived from the song “Side by Side by Side” from the Broadway play “Company.”

The WSU production of “Song by Song by Sondheim" will take place at 8 p.m. July 19, 20, 26 and 27 in Bryan Hall.

Ticket prices are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens. Tickets will be available at the door one hour before each performance.

“It’s a really good way to be introduced to Sondheim on his own,” Borges said, “but also to all these different genres that he’s capable of composing as just one person.”

Treffry can be contacted at (208) 883-4640 or ltreffry@inland360.com. Follow her on Twitter at: @LindseyTreffry.

->if you go: WHAT: WSU’s summer musical production of “Song by Song by Sondheim” WHEN: 8 p.m. July 19, 20, 26 and 27 WHERE: Bryan Hall, WSU campus, Pullman COST: Door prices are $10 or $5 for students and senior citizens

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