By Marcina Zaccaria . . .
The music of Stephen Sondheim was celebrated on February 10 at Roulette in Brooklyn with a revue from Dessoff Choirs.
Stephen Sondheim’s work is known for its clever lyrics and post-modern slant on human relationships. Character-driven, a type of sarcasm drives humorous or even troubled relationships. Watching Dessoff’s revue made me think back to the Sondheim musicals I’ve seen on Broadway, including the revivals of Sunday in the Park with George or Into the Woods, and even university productions of Sondheim’s work like Putting It Together. I hold a depth of appreciation for this musical literature, and by the end of the evening on February 10 at Roulette in Brooklyn, I was convinced that Dessoff Choirs, who will soon be celebrating their 100th Anniversary, was up to the challenge of bringing a fresh interpretation to such popular material.
This tight evening included selections from Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Follies, A Little Night Music, and the less frequently performed Evening Primrose. Malcolm J. Merriweather led from a table, explaining that he wasn’t intending on conducting. He generously introduced each singer. “Being Alive” started the evening of songs, performed with still frame photos in the background. If you love syncopated rhythms, this might not be your show. With vocal coaching from pianist Steven Ryan, the singers showcased their legato, carrying each phrase forward. Though most of the evening was solos from each member of the choir, duets like “Agony” or the warm trio, “Old Friends,” kept the evening flowing.
Michael Hegedus sang “Johanna” from Sweeney Todd. Section Leader Amanda Kelly performed a beautiful interpretation of “I Remember” from Evening Primrose. Malcolm J. Merriweather, himself, gave a deeply emotional performance of “Losing My Mind” from Follies. Vianca Alejandra sang “Soon” from A Little Night Music, and Kimberley Cohan performed “Send in the Clowns.” Finally, the Company joined on stage for a medley from West Side Story that included “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria,” “One Hand, One Heart,” and “Somewhere.”
A voice teacher on the Upper West Side once told me, “Once a solo singer, always a solo singer.” Sopranos with classical training can sometimes fall victim to a type of diva complex, resulting in an inability to share the stage or recognize the gifts of another singer. I found this to be nowhere on stage with Dessoff Choirs. Congratulations, and here’s to your 100 years!
Sondheim Revue was presented on Friday, February 10 at Roulette Intermedium (509 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn). www.dessoff.org