If, like myself, you weren’t aware of who Stephen Sondheim is, you’d certainly be very aware of his music.
He is the mastermind responsible for composing such musical masterpieces as West Side Story, Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd, amongst countless others. Sondheim is often thought to be the greatest and best-known artist in the American musical scene. Blake Parham, Tahlia Ries and Joshua Mollart agree … as they bring us the slightly crazy, slightly quirky, entertaining Crazy with Sondheim, an ode to the musical monarchy that is Mr Sondheim.
Parham opened the performance with a powerful and moving rendition of ‘Losing My Mind’, immediately entrancing all in the venue. His voice is reminiscent of infamous crooners entrenched in musical history (such as Dorothy Loudon or an early Tim Curry) with that reverberating, variable shimmer on a single note. Ries soon followed with pieces from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Sweeney Todd. Her adept control of her voice is admirable, effortlessly switching between echoing operatic and breathy soft tones to belting ballads and back again.
The show-stealing, stellar number (without a doubt) was their duet of ‘A Little Priest’ from Sweeney Todd; equally disturbing, hilarious and witty. This dynamic duo made it their own and Ries’ embodiment of Angela Lansbury and Helena Bonham-Carter (who have both played the part of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd) was marvellous. So much so, that the audience requested an encore of this number (the first encore I’ve seen for the Cabaret Fringe season). Mollart is a skilled, charming accompanist, with minimal but well choreographed verbal input with Parham and Ries.
Not so successful were the jarring entrances and exits of Parham and Ries between songs which sometimes broke the mood of the piece just performed. The pace at the beginning of the production took a short while to build steam, but once it had reached momentum, it powered forward with one entertaining rendition after the other.
These three talented musicians have a little polishing to do, but have nonetheless delivered an entertaining, maddening insight into the crazy world of Sondheim. Their vocal talents are unique and must be witnessed to believe. Look out for these three … they are swiftly on their rise to making their infamous mark on the cabaret and musical scene.
Reviewed by Nathan Giaccio
Venue: The Soul Box, 252 Hindley Street, Adelaide
Season: 7-9 June
Duration: 1 hour