by Nancy Holley
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Talent abounds as the Visalia Players present Side By Side By Sondheim. Veteran co-directors Sharon DeCoux and Corey Ralston have brought together exceptional singers to entertain you with the unforgettable music of Stephen Sondheim.
Originally produced with two men and two women, the Players’ production is expanded to include three men and three women to showcase more of the Valley’s talent. Richard (Rick) Adamson is the narrator who moves the show along with enticing bits of inside information about the songs not known to the general public.
Adamson is a fourth generation Visalian, who has been involved in theatre, both musicals and dramas, on the West Coast as well as Europe. Adamson points out that, “Side By Side is concise with the ability to show off Sondheim’s work for itself rather than in the context of a specific show. It is a nice change to hear pieces that can stand on their own.”
Co-director Ralston is pleased, “to be back in the game having solos and major music to perform.” Ralston spends much of his time directing shows at the Ice House and in Hanford, but is a passionate actor as well. His favorite number is “Being Alive” from Company. “It is a very emotional piece and I’m trying to do it justice.”
Musical director Merina Amos is also singing in the show. “Performing is a priority in my life. I’m not a whole person without it,” Amos quipped. Amos is excited about the variety of music in the show. “We are not limited by a single character.” Amos is having a great time with “Getting Married Today” from Company. “It is the fastest song I’ve ever sung. It is just insane.”
The music of Sondheim beginning with A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum rings in our ears, but it is his lyrics that are most memorable. His “Gotta have a Gimmick” from Gypsy was a great crowd pleaser and he wrote all the lyrics for the fabulous West Side Story. Adamson notes, “It is Sondheim’s cleverness that I admire.” Ralston points out “Sondheim writes different types of musicals, but humorous subtexts appear in all his songs.”
Rebecca Coffey finds Sondheim’s music, “challenging, but always in a good way.” Coffey recently graced the Ice House stage as Bonnie in the very popular Bonnie and Clyde. Coffey is excited about setting the show in the lobby, “The audience is going to feel as if they are a part of the show.”
Involved in music from childhood, Craig Wilson has appeared in musicals and dramatic theatre productions in the mid-west and in the Valley. Wilson finds Sondheim’s pieces, “cleverly crafted, inviting audience members to listen closely. His wordplay is legendary, and his songs sometimes feel like puzzles which amply reward the patient solver.”
Marla Alberstein, who has appeared in many musicals in the Valley over the years at the Ice House, COS and other venues, completes the talented cast. Alberstein was most recently seen in the Visalia Players’ reprise of Respect at the Fox Theatre.
All the performers and co-directors DeCoux and Ralston consider Sondheim a genius of composition and lyrics. Ralston laughingly noted, “What is fun about Side By Side is that every Sondheim musical has its own sound and its own voice so it is rather schizophrenic to sing songs from various shows, but very fun and stretching too.”
On Sunday November 23 after the matinee, “Back Stage at the Ice House” will be hosted by Leeni Mitchell, a veteran Visalia Player. Audience members will have an opportunity for a behind the scenes look at the show and the opportunity to ask questions and interact with cast/crew.
Side By Side By Sondheim, a musical comedy, opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 14, 2014 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 11/14, 11/15, 11/21, 11/22, 11/28, and 11/29 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 11/16, 11/23, and 11/30.
For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.
Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!
To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLSBS in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.