The Players closing show of their 98th season is "Side by Side by Sondheim", a Tony Award winning musical with a collection of both famous and obscure songs by Stephen Sondheim. This show was commissioned in 1975 by Cleo Laine and her husband, John Dankworth as fundraiser for their theater in England. Although Sondheim's later works are not included in this show, it stops before "Sweeney Todd", "Side by Side" became very popular with regional companies and was largely responsible for the spread of Sondheim's popularity beyond New York and London theater circles. The array of songs in which he wrote both lyrics and music in this show include numbers from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum", "Anyone Can Whistle", "Company'', "Follies", "A Little Night Music" and "Pacific Overtures" as well as his lyrics from "West Side Story" with music by Leonard Bernstein, "Gypsy" with music by Jule Styne and "Do I Hear A Waltz?" with music by Richard Rodgers. The rarities found in the show are from the television musical "Evening Primrose", the movie, " The Seven Percent Solution" and the hit revue "The Mad Show." Director Alma Fontana chooses seven talented vocalists and an entertaining narrator for this show while her musical directors, Ron Procopio and Charles Strauss not only taught the cast over 32 numbers but also play keyboard and piano with Ron's son, Buddy as the percussionist. The cast masters the tongue twisting lyrics and the difficult melodies of all these songs with ease and the audience is rewarded by their exuberant performance.
The droll narrating duties are handled by veteran actor, Ted Gavriluk. He entertains the crowd by explaining the numbers in a comical way, keeping your attention all night long. Each of the seven vocalists get their own chance to shine individually in their solos, duets, trios and group numbers, too. The ensemble numbers include "Comedy Tonight", "Love is in the Air" (which was cut from "Forum"), "The Little Things'', ''Company'', Conversation Piece ( which is a multitude of snippets from Sondheim's songs) ''Side by Side" and "What Would We Do Without You?''. Holly Applegate who has a high soprano voice, gets to show it off in "Getting Married Today" ( soprano part), "Ah, Paree!'', "Send in the Clowns'' which shows off her lower range and is very poignant as is "I Have Love" and "Losing My Mind". Dennis Bouchard solos on "Being Alive", a soaring tenor number which he executes perfectly and the comical "Could I Leave You" which was originally sung by Alexis Smith in "Follies". David Crossley does the comical duets "You Must Meet My Wife" which shows off his lower range, "Barcelona", a comic duet with Holly and the touching and beautiful ballad, "Anyone Can Whistle" which tugs at your heartstrings with his rendition. Angie Margiotta shows off her comic skills in the hilarious "The Boy from ... Tacarimba la Tumba del Fuego Santa Maliga Sacategas lo Onto del Sol y Cruz" and in the duets "If Momma Was Married" with Amy, "Can That Boy Foxtrot" with Liz and "We're Gonna Be All Right" with David Olsen. One of the funniest numbers in the show is "Gotta Have a Gimmick'' from "Gypsy" with Angie, Liz and Amy as the three strippers. Liz Messier is a hoot as the madam in the song "I Never Do Anything Twice" with its suggestive lyrics and she belts out "A Boy Like That" wonderfully in her duet with Holly and is dynamite in her solo number "I'm Still Here". Amy Thompson is another belting singer who sells her frenetic numbers wonderfully and they include "Getting Married Today" with Dennis as her hapless husband, "Another Hundred People'', "Broadway Baby" which is a great vaudeville type number and leads the ensemble in "Everybody Says Don't". Last but not least is David Olsen who sings the touching "I Remember" from "Evening Primrose", ''Beautiful Girls" from "Follies'', the comic "We're Gonna Be All Right" with Angie and the gorgeous cockney trio song, "Pretty Lady" with David Crossley and Dennis. So for an evening of musical entertainment, be sure to catch "Side by Side". Producer/stage manager, Lydia Matteson keeps the show running smoothly and she is also the person to call to become a member of this wonderful theater club which will be 99 years old next season.