Sunday, April 14, 2002

Saturday Night (Beck Center)

'SATURDAY NIGHT' Sondheim's tooth cutting musical

The musical 'SATURDAY NIGHT' was Steven Sondheim’s first attempt at a musical. It began as a play by the authors of the screenplay for 'CASABLANCA.' Money was secured for a staging, but the producer died suddenly and the project was abandoned. Individual songs were published and became part of Sondehim lore. Then, in 1997 a London theatre company, with the blessing of the composer, staged the show. It then had a short off-Broadway run and found its way to the Beck Center stage.

Having completed its run, the odds of your ever seeing it again are remote. This is not the Sondheim of 'WEST SIDE STORY,' 'SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE,' 'COMPANY,' or 'INTO THE WOODS.' This is a Sondheim who writes such lyrics as, “a girl is a thing that is made of glass lace.” This was Sondheim who wrote about a group of Brooklyn male friends who spent most of their waking hours complaining because they didn’t have dates and the attempt of one to become a “swell.”

Fortunately for Beck audiences, director Fred Sternfeld decided not to take the script seriously. He wisely played much of the action as if he were doing a 1930 MGM “let’s go out to the barn and do a musical” complete with exaggerated line interpretations and stylized dance movements.

Several cast members stood out. Rebecca Borger was a delightful as the ditzey Celeste and Kenneth Bently made the role of Ray fun. The multi Times Tribute award- winner Craig Recko was somewhat miscast in the lead role. He seemed uncomfortable with the stylized dancing and stilted lines.

Capsule judgement: It is always interesting to see new theatre pieces...even if they are not of the highest literary quality. This was a good lesson in seeing Sondheim before he matured into one of America’s greatest contemporary lyricists.