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Singing Sondheim
Published 7/17/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Cast members are preparing for the opening night of "Song by Song by Sondheim," directed by Dr. Julie Wieck, associate professor of music.

This performance, a revue as Wieck described it, is composed of songs written by Stephen Sondheim and tells the audience about his inspirations behind the music.

Wieck began this project last spring. She said she couldn't find a Sondheim show that fit the voices of her cast, so she decided to make one herself.

"My friend, Jane Lear, did some research for me and she came up with direct quotes by Stephen Sondheim about his shows, and so those are the connective tissue," she said. "I went through and chose some songs that are familiar, but I also wanted to do some that people don't get the chance to hear."

Sondheim has written music for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "West Side Story," and "Sweeney Todd," among many others, Wieck said.

The show is in chronological order, Wieck said, and each song acts as its own story with cast members, taking on the challenge of developing entire characters throughout a single song.

"I also wanted the students to have the opportunity to grow through their song choices," she said. "I chose things I thought would highlight their strengths but also challenge them. I'm really pleased with how all of them are embracing these different songs and different characters."

Nathan Sansburn, a junior music education major, said he wanted to be a part of this show in order to keep up on his singing throughout the summer. The opportunity to practice many characters also helped him work on his acting skills, Sansburn said.

"It's a unique show because it's not an ordinary musical," he said. "Everyone has at least one or two solo moments. Other musicals have a few leads and then the chorus; all of the cast is kind of a lead in a way."

The purpose of this show is to personify Sondheim, said Kyle Ross, academic adviser at the Center for Advising and Career Development (CACD).

"Sondheim is definitely, by far, my favorite musical theater playwright," he said. "He really likes to go for realistic, more of a dark side of things. He is often quoted for saying that audience members will go to musical theater to escape the real world, and in ‘Company,’ he decided to slap the real world back in their faces."

Ross said the show will also act as a good sampler of Sondheim since it contains music from 12 different shows.

"So really, it's a small taste of each one," he said. "It'll definitely leave the audience wanting to see each and every one. And if they're not interested in seeing the whole show, then we didn't do a good job."

The cast is made up of eight students and two WSU faculty members, Wieck and Brian Carter. Graduate student Juliana Witt will provide the accompaniment.

The show opens at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19 in Bryan Hall Theatre and will continue on July 20, 26 and 27. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors.

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