Review by Susan Hasho
Saturday Night is Sondheim’s first musical written in his early 20s. The director Stafford Arima has dusted it off, cast it with ebulliently talented actors and casually set it on music stands with rollers—to shine, fresh and innocent.
Saturday Night is a story centered around a group of friends in Brooklyn that begins on a Saturday night. One of the guys, Gene likes to dream, wear formal wear into New York City and crash clubs. He meets a fellow crasher and Southern belle named Helen and comes up with a get rich scheme. He works on Wall Street, always shares stock tips but now he collects money from his friends to buy a stock together on Monday’s market opening, “Sure bet.” He finds more ways to complicate his trouble and then gets out of trouble, of course. He falls in love with said belle who really isn’t a Southern belle but a local working-class gal. We meet a married couple, a nightclub singer, and an eager but slightly out-of-her-league girl—all the while entertained by sweet and youthfully clever Sondheim confections.
There are two relatively familiar songs that are lovely: So Many People and What More Do I Need? The rest of the score is cheerful, somewhat clever and promising. What is remarkable about this show is the guileless and simple fun it creates. The actors are totally in sync with this and ride it effortlessly to the finale. Everyone is beautifully cast; the leads Ben Fankhauser as Gene and Margo Seibert as Helen are totally right and appealing in their roles, it feels out of place here to give special notice to any performers in particular because, given the short preparation time these actors had, they are a tight and equally imaginative ensemble. The singing voices are clear and lovely, totally without strain which gives the whole evening a feeling of intimacy and easy charm.
Give hats off to the York Theatre Company for choosing to bring us this early Sondheim. We are given a rare glimpse into his musical beginnings and find a fresh and innocent Sondheim at the core. The sheer love of theatricality was present from the start; and the craft and courage to always open new doors is a promise here.
Musical Supervisor: Paul Gemignani Conductor: Mark Mitchell Drums: Greg Joseph
Matthew Bauman (Ted), Jeremy Greenbaum (Dino), Olli Haaskivi (Eugene “Pinhead”), Michael Thomas Holmes (Mr. Fletcher/Headwaiter), Greg Kamp (Artie), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Bobby), Jared Loftin (Ray), Lindsay Mendez (Celeste), Kenita Miller (Florence/Female vocalist), Lance Roberts (Clune/ Plaza attendant), Matthew Scott (Hank), Jim Stanek (Mr. Fisher/male vocalist) and Dana Steingold (Mildred), comprise the rest of this superb ensemble.
Additional performances: Nov. 14, 15, 16
www.yorktheatre.org 421 West 54th Street, NY, NY 212-935-5820