Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Putting It Together
Set in a sweeping Manhattan penthouse living room, designed by resident genius Dahl Delu, a cocktail party is the superficial framework on which are hung a raft of songs from Sondheim's musicals, like A Little Night Music, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Company, the movie Dick Tracy, and that critical bomb with some great songs, Merrily We Roll Along. Presented as a revue with stock characters, a loose storyline emerges through the songs and William R. Stafford's deft direction.
Dan Sparacino is the sometimes friend, a host/narrator/facilitator of onstage shenanigans. Playful and charming, there's enough imp in him to love up the wife while the husband pays his salary. Not a snake in the grass, perhaps, but the snake's drinking buddy. In fact "Buddy's Blues," that vaudevillian ditty paired with Sondheim's psychological acumen ("I've got those 'God-why-don't-you-love-me-oh-you-do-I'll-see-you-later' Blues") is his hit number. Sparacino's comic timing and versatile voice(s) fill the bill. Now that he's back in the biz, let's see him ineverything.
Michael Finnegan's Rat Pack tuxedo and world-weary face suit the gravel in his voice. As the husband, he is successful and stable, philandering and confident. The only thing that scares him is his wife (Laurie Finnegan). Their opening number, "Rich and Happy" from Merrily We Roll Along is just a smoke screen. Mr. Finnegan's subtle portrayal runs the gamut in this productionfondness, exasperation, lust, nostalgia, regret, deep and abiding love for his spouserooted in the real, no fireworks necessary. Nice job.
Colin Burdge sings the younger man. Having seen him as Bobby in Company at MTS, and hearing him now sing Bobby's signature song "Being Alive," this time as part of a chorus, I was struck by the differences in his present character. Bobby can't commit; this young man wrestles with commitment and finally embraces it in "Marry Me a Little" (also from Company). The actor/singer gives it an undeniable spark that Bobby didn't have.
His partner Jenni Goodman helps to elicit that spark. Goodman is truly "Lovely," as she gladly tells us in her first big number as the younger woman. Her comic chops come through even more strongly in "More." But she really lays down her bona fides as the femme fatale in "Sooner or Later" (sung by Madonna in Dick Tracy) and uses her clear soprano and long legs to their best advantage in this seductive song. Goodman is a song-and-dance woman who graces us with all she's got.
But Laurie Finnegan owns this stage and she knows it. As the older woman, she exudes experience, bitterness, and not a little malice. Her character has been through the mill, more than one marriage, the present one a disappointment. She almost always has a drink in her hand. Wouldn't you? Ms. Finnegan's voice is smoky and commanding by turns, suited to the songs and the mood. In her duets with the husband, she can be tender, provocative, or lacerating ("Could I Leave You?"). In her duets with the younger woman, she always wins. Her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" did not make me miss the late Elaine Stritch. Laurie Finnegan is perfection, from her golden hair to her pretty feet. Don't miss this performance.
Landmark's trademark is live music and this time the band is onstage, adding to the sophisticated vibe. It's thrilling to watch conductor and pianist Darby Fegan and his talented ensemble perform with the singers. They are very presentable and should never be hidden away in an orchestra pit.
I'll be the first to tell you I can't dance, won't dance, don't know much about choreography. I have enjoyed watching some of the most wonderful moves at Landmark Musicals; Louis Giannini and Courtney Giannini are choreographers who know their musical comedy conventions and have fun with them. Their treatment of "Bang!," for instance, is apt and hilarious. However, I have one brief, untutored critique: running leaps and side-flops can induce wincing in audiences. Maybe scale those back.
Through August 6, 2017, Landmark Musicals, McCall Family Theatre, Performing Arts Center at Sandia Preparatory School, 532 Osuna Dr. NE; Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m.; Tickets $25, with $2 discount for Seniors and Students: landmarkmusicals.org