SONDHEIM'S MUSICAL ABOUT THE WAR OF LOVE BRINGS A STUNNING CAST TO THIS CUSTOM MADE THEATRE
PASSION the Musical remains one of Sondheim's more difficult musicals to like. It is very distinguished with its haunting score kept emotionally remote by its manipulative heroine. PASSION closes Custom Made Threatre’s current season with a stunning cast and production team. The musical is now on stage at the Sheldon Stage through July 20th. Directed by Stuart Bousel, and music direction by Brian Allan Hobbs this chamber musical tells the dysfunctional love story of a handsome soldier and the lonely, ailing woman who will stop at nothing to win his heart. Set in 19th century war-torn Italy, the rapturous PASSION is complex, dark, lush, and is a conversation starter.
The score is played with exquisite talent by a three member Orchestra on piano Brian Allen Hobbs, woodwinds Sheldon Brown and cello Ami Nashimoto guided by the accomplished Hobbs. The musicians perform on stage keeping the performance space limited but the focus of the story is all down stage. CMT’s more intimate musicals have been successful including their recent production of IN THE HEIGHTS. Sondheim’s and book writer James Lapine’s. PASSION is not a sunny musical, it forces you to think. Based on Ettore Scola’s 1981 film “Passione d’Amore’ which was adapted from Iginio Ugo Tarchetti’s 1863 novel “Fosca.” The tragic tale of a romantic triangle deals with handsome soldier, Giorgio, played by the dynamic John Mells, who’s caught up in an affair with a married Milanese woman, Clara, played by the confident Juliana Lustenader, and Fosca who he meets at the military station.
When Giorgio is transferred to a military outpost, his beauty and kindness attracts the attention of the commanding officer’s sickly, bookish cousin, Fosca, played by the gifted Heather Orth. Her doctor, played by the dapper Jake Gleason, says Fosca is “a medical phenomenon, a walking collection of all possible ills.” Most of the love opera is told through the three principal characters’ letters and highlighted by the gossip of a superb costumed military chorus, including Zaya Kolia, Carl Lucania, Kelly Rubinsohn, Max Seijas, Amy Alvino, Domonic Tracy, Roy Benjamin Eikleberry and Micah Watterson.
Orth is amazing performing Sondheim’s moody, ballads with flawless command “I Wish I Could Forget You” and the bittersweet “Loving You.” “I have many flaws, Captain,” says Fosca to Giorgio in epic understatement. “As long as you are a man, you are what the world will make of you,” says Fosca. “Whereas if you are a woman, you are only what it sees” she later states. The contrast between Orth and Melis is spellbound in director Bousel’s elegant staging. Costumer, Kathleen Qui, dresses Orth in nightgown robes, and the compelling Clara in elegant gowns and handsome jewels. This is a ballad soap opera about the painful enlightenment of Giorgio’s journey to love, and Melis makes that journey chilling and sometimes dark. But in the end - the road to their dysfunctional love is thoughtful and Sondheim encourages the sometime madness of love.
CMT announced their new season and highlights include BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON that opens September 27th, and FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM set to open summer for 2020. But in the meantime PASSION continues to bring audiences to their feet and if you are a Sondhiem fanboy as I am - you will enjoy this excellent musical.
Custom Made Theatre Presents
Lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim,
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Stuart Bousel
Music Direction by Brian Allan Hobbs
Must Close July 20th
533 Sutter Street
Running time: 1 HOUR, 40 MIN.
Tickets (415) 798-2682,
photos by Jay Yamada
VMEDIA ARTS NICO JAOCHICO - VISITS WITH THE CAST OF PASSION -