Side by Side by Sondheim | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Side by Side by Sondheim

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Wisdom Bridge Theatre Chicago Company, at Ivanhoe Theater.

By now the 50-some songs in this 1977 Tony-winning revue represent only half of Stephen Sondheim's protean repertory. Yet Side by Side offers songs worth a second listen, among them the music-hall rouser "I Never Do Anything Twice," the winsome ballad "I Remember," and the double-entendred "Can That Boy Foxtrot."

Ned Sherrin's compilation pays homage to Sondheim's effortless lyrics for Mary and Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein, and Jule Styne (principally West Side Story and Gypsy) and his increasingly stylized self-collaborations (notably the lyrics and music for Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Company, and A Little Night Music). Sherrin's between-songs patter is a bit too expository and stiff, but his clever ordering showcases Sondheim's wise, contradictory takes on marriage, New York, disillusionment, and showbiz.

Directed by Dale Calandra and Wisdom Bridge artistic director Jeffrey Ortmann (the latter making his stage debut), this faithful but not very urgent revival relies too much on the material to sell itself. And it relies too much on hand mikes to produce a volume of sound out of sync with the space and the performers' talents: at times they seem to be lip-synching to themselves. Margie Gibson tears into the survivors' anthem "I'm Still Here," Patricia Lupo deadpans the devastating dismissal "Could I Leave You?" and Ortmann brings solidity if not expression to "Anyone Can Whistle." Better work comes when they join together or David Bonanno solos, especially his well-acted "Marry Me a Little" and passionate "Being Alive." Michael Rourke's dappled lighting plays well against Geoff Curley's elegant proscenium addition to the space.

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