Saturday Night on a Monday night.

The Magnormos Musical Theatre company have joined other worldwide companies in celebrating composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday year. He became an octogenarian on March 22.

Magnormos decided to present a Sondheim Triptyche – 3 concert productions of lesser known musicals composed by Sondheim. All performed in the Melbourne Recital hall.

The 3 chosen musicals being:

1. Saturday Night (1954)

2. Merrily We Roll Along (1981)

3. Anyone Can Whistle (1964)

So off I went on Monday night to see the first presentation “Saturday Night”.

I have seen most productions of Sondheim musicals in some form, whether professional, amateur or in concert form over the years. I had never seen a production of Saturday Night, so a real first for me. And what a treat it was.

Saturday Night was supposed to be Sondheim’s first ever Broadway show, but when it was due to be performed back in 1954 the shows producer died and the show was shelved. It finally was performed in New York, off Broadway in 2000. Some of the songs have appeared in revues and tribute albums – I recognized “So Many People” and “What More Do I Need”, 2 terrific tunes. Sondheim has a fondness for the musical, but he has said it is his baby show, and he is embarrassed by some of the corny gags and lyrics. I thought that was part of it’s great charm.

It is very old fashioned but you can see the formation of a great composer in it’s score. The book was written by Julius J. Epstein, based on the play “Front Porch in Flatbush”. written by Julius and his brother Phillip G. Epstein who both wrote the screenplay for “Casablanca”, which won them an Oscar.

This is the plot. In 1929 inBrooklyn, New York, a group of  bachelor friends are restless on several Saturday nights because they have no dates. Gene, who works in a minor job in a Wall Street firm, has dreams of the exciting society life to be found in Manhattan, across the bridge,  while his friends are content to stay in the neighborhood. Gene meets Helen, who is crashing a party at the Plaza Hotel (as is Gene). He schemes to “get rich quick”, but his plan backfires and he barely escapes jail.

The wonderful Magnormos cast did a fine job – presented as a concert with scripts in hand, and projections to help give you a sense of place. They sang well, had excellent comic timing, they really didn’t put a foot wrong. With very good direction and choreography it was a fun show. I guess the only thing was that there were no mikes, as it was presented in the recital hall with excellent acoustics.This sometimes made it a bit of a struggle to hear some of the lyrics, but once you got used to it, the charms of the show took over. Sing out Louise!  Singers nowadays have very little training in projection, such a shame. Where’s Ethel & Patti when you need them 🙂

I am very excited to see next Monday’s presentation of “Merrily We Roll Along”, it is one of my favorite Sondheim scores. Will blab about it next week.

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