Side by Side by Sondheim

Stage Nine Theatre

717 Sutter St.
Folsom, CA 95630

Rated 4.0

Side by Side by Sondheim is a smart little revue drawing on Stephen Sondheim’s hits—plus a few oddities and outtakes—from the 1950s through the 1970s. The words are all Sondheim’s, and he wrote some of the tunes.

Having debuted in London just over 30 years ago, Side By Side By Sondheim has not only played hundreds of performances, it’s also spawned a double album on vinyl and now on CD. That’s a tribute to Sondheim’s craft. Many show tunes fade when the costumes and dramatic situations are stripped away, but the songs in this show still make for very entertaining listening.

The revue features several proven standards like “Send in the Clowns,” that gentle, bittersweet anthem to midlife disenchantment; “Somewhere,” a nearly perfect piece of love music from West Side Story, and “Comedy Tonight,” one of the best curtain-raising numbers ever. There are also less-familiar numbers, like the teasing, euphemistic “Can that Boy Foxtrot.” Lithe performer Alexandra Ralph (singing in character) describes a boyfriend with few social graces, but “Oh, can that boy f-f-f-f-f”-(blink)-“f-f-foxtrot!” she coos with a sexy, satiated look.

Another performer, Ruth Phillips, has an equally funny number as an older woman pursuing a good-looking Latino lad, “The Boy From …” (The place he’s from has an extended name too funny to disclose in print). Bob Cooner plays several men, but also a woman in the darkly hilarious breakup number “Could I Leave You?”

Pianist Sam Scheiber provides flawless support, while actor/director Michael Claudio delivers introductions and commentary. Connie Mockenhaupt handled the choreography, which, like everything else about this well-proportioned show, fits nicely on this storefront theater’s cozy stage.