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Theater Review-'Putting It Together' At Brookfield Theatre



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Theater Review—

‘Putting It Together’ At Brookfield Theatre

By Julie Stern

BROOKFIELD — Brookfield Theatre for the Arts is currently staging a musical review of the works of Stephen Sondheim.

Called Putting It Together, the show, which was devised by Sondheim and Julia McKenzie, takes 34 of his songs from 13 different shows and puts them together to dramatize a story of sorts.

Set at a cocktail party in an elegant New York condo, the “plot” simultaneously charts the trajectory of two separate relationships: Tom Protenic and Elyse Jasensky are an older married couple who are giving the party (singing “Rich and Happy”) while Bart Geissinger and Heather Perssonatti are young singles who meet there for the first time (“Hello Little Girl”).

Using an ancient Greek device taken from Sondheim’s Frogs, Jean-Pierre Ferragamo serves as a narrator, directing the audience’s attention to the moments of psychodrama taking place on stage.

Sondheim has got to be the greatest lyricist in American musical theater; the clever, bittersweet poetic images of his lines capture the nuances of modern life, particularly with the songs taken from Follies, Company, and A Little Night Music — numbers like “Have I got a Girl for You,” “My Husband the Pig,” “A Country House,” “Could I leave You?,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “The Road You Didn’t Take,” and so forth.

Bill Possidento’s direction turns these into sharply etched portraits.

All the principals have fine voices, and Elyse Jasensky in particular is a terrific dramatic actress whose body language and facial expressions are droll, biting, rueful, and triumphant by turns.

Heather Perssonatti is wonderfully seductive as the arm candy girl, while Bart Geissinger is torn between not believing his good luck, and worrying over whether he really wants to go through with things.

Also, Tom Protenic is like one of A.R. Gurney’s wistfully alienated WASP protagonists, who recognizes that he and his wife actually bore one another.

Personally I feel that Sondheim is much better as a lyricist than a composer. When Leonard Bernstein wrote the score for West Side Story, the songs were so powerful as to be engraved on American hearts forever. You won’t hear Sondheim being played in supermarkets, nor would you be immediately caught up in the melodies if you did. However, his words and his creative stagings are worth going to see, and Brookfield has done a very creditable job.

And Elyse Jasensky wears the most exciting spangled jacket I have ever seen.

(Putting It Together will be at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, Route 25 in Brookfield Center, through November 20.  Performances are generally Friday and Saturday evenings, with a matinee on Sunday, November 7, and an extra show on Thursday, November 11. For information, call 775-002.)

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