Tag Archives: Stephen Sondheim

Sweeney Todd; Fighting Chance (Upcoming show)

Just in time for Hallowe’en comes Sweeney Todd, presented by Fighting Chance Productions. Director Ryan Mooney promises a fresh and sexy take on the Sondheim masterpiece and has set it in the round to bring the audience closer to the action.


Alex McMorran and Cathy Wilmot in Fighting Chance's Sweeney Todd.


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Into the Woods) and book by Hugh Wheeler (A Little Night Music). Directed by Ryan Mooney (Hair, Fighting Chance), with musical direction by Vashti Fairbairn (Hair, Fighting Chance).

Starring Alex McMorran (The Wedding Singer, Fighting Chance), Cathy Wilmot (Forbidden Broadway, Fighting Chance), Arne Larsen (Rent, Fighting Chance), Sabrina Prada, Chris Harvey (Les Misérables, Arts Club), Krista Gibbard, David Nicks, Jeremy Hanlon-Fournier, Eric Alexander Steel (Hair, Fighting Chance), Laura Luongo, Lauren Gula, (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Gateway), Kate Leinweber, Reginald Pillay, Matt Hume (A New Brain, Pipedream), Nick Fontaine (Rent, Fighting Chance), Patrick Maloughney and Danielle Lemon.

Fighting Chance Productions presents Sweeney Todd from October 13 – 30, 2010 at the Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery, Vancouver. Tickets are available online or by calling 604-224-8007 ext. 3.


Forbidden Broadway; Fighting Chance (Review)

Forbidden Broadway has spent more than 25 years in New York satirising the best and the worst of the Great White Way.  Fighting Chance Productions’ decision to bring a version of the popular revue to Vancouver is a curious one.

The Off-Broadway musical revue made its debut way back in 1982 and has been rewritten over the years to make room for the inclusion of newer shows.  Some of the parodies have held up better than others and I was eager to see which would be included in this incarnation and whether they would find a receptive audience here.

Aaron Lau, Cathy Wilmot and David Nicks in Forbidden Broadway.

Satire like this, demands some familiarity with the source material, and the more familiarity, the better. I needn’t have worried; the night I attended, the intimate PAL Theatre was heavily laden with local musical-theatre buffs in high spirits.  As a whole, they caught pretty much every musical reference thrown their way.

And there were a lot for them to catch.  Everything from Rent, to Les Misérables, to Hairspray.  The strongest audience reactions came for the send-ups of shows that have been seen locally recently.

The cast of five (plus a guest appearance, by the company’s artistic director) do a respectable job with some of the more difficult material.  Kudos to Andrea Bailey, Natalee Fera, Aaron Lau, David Nicks and Cathy Wilmot.  Serviceable impressions of Broadway icons can be a tall order, but they mostly deliver.

“Defying Subtlety” poked cleverly at both Wicked and Idina Menzel.  Cathy Wilmot’s lipstick-smeared Carol Channing was a humourous tribute to the legend’s longtime role as Dolly Levi.  Wilmot also does a larger-than-life Ethel Merman mocking the current trend of over-micing performers.

Also on the mark were good-natured jabs at Liza Minnelli, Bob Fosse and Stephen Sondheim, respectively.  “Into the Words” skillfully incorporated elements of Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods.

Considerably less-successful were parodies of Fiddler on the Roof, Cats and Barbra Streisand.  The weaker material dragged down the show’s pacing.   As well, at least one of the singers had difficulty projecting to the back of the venue.

Forbidden Broadway won’t be to everyone’s liking, but musical-theatre followers will welcome the chance to make light of some of their idols, if only for a night.

Fighting Chance Productions presents Forbidden Broadway from January 6 – 16, 2010 at the PAL Theatre, 581 Cardero St.  Tickets are available online or by calling 604-684-2787.

Stephen Sondheim in Vancouver (Guest Post)

I was sick and missed seeing Stephen Sondheim when he stopped in Vancouver at the end of October.  Local theatre director and producer Ryan Mooney (Rent) offered to share his thoughts on the experience.

Stephen Sondheim is arguably the best there is when it comes to musical theatre, although anyone who would argue it might need to give their heads a shake.  His résumé is impressive; his first Broadway show was West Side Story and he followed that up with Gypsy.  Not a bad start to a career.  He’s had his fair share of flops; however I was surprised to find out after checking out Wikipedia that not a single Sondheim title appears in the one-hundred longest running Broadway shows.
Stephen Sondheim
On Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 Stephen Sondheim made his first trip ever to Vancouver to speak at the Vogue Theatre as part of his “Life in the Theatre” series.  It was sponsored through APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert which is presenting an entire season of Stephen Sondheim (Passion will be up next).  I, myself, have had the opportunity to check out Sondheim speaking before when I was in NYC for his 75th birthday, so I had some idea of what a kind and personable person he was.  What I wasn’t prepared for was just how attentive he would be when I met him in person. I had the opportunity to meet him briefly and talk to him at a gala event beforehand.  He spoke highly of our city – about how our main park (Stanley Park) is beautiful.  I was there with a few friends and he mentioned how happy he was to see “some young people” at the event, since apparently it’s usually a lot of the older set at these meet and greets.

Following that, we headed to a packed Vogue Theatre for a discussion moderated by Jerry Wasserman.  I’ve heard a few people mention that they think Jerry could’ve been more prepared.  Myself, I feel like it was a crazy task to assign anyone.  Where do you even scratch the surface when it comes to a man who has had such a distinguished career?  I’ve read the Stephen Sondheim biography by Meryle Secrest and I was the emcee for Fighting Chance’s production of Side by Side by Sondheim, so I certainly felt I had some Sondheim knowledge, but I was thrilled to hear anecdotes that I hadn’t heard before. There was one moment in particular where I became acutely aware of just how quiet the Vogue Theatre was.  An entire room full of our theatre community hanging on this man’s every word.  Nobody wanted to move for fear of missing something that he had to share.  I know that I speak for many people when I say that I could’ve listened to hours more of his stories.

He spoke about how he’s writing a two-volume set of annotated lyrics to all of his shows; the first due out this time next year.  Sondheim fans (myself included) will be thrilled to get their hands on such a gem of authorship.

Kudos must be paid to Scott Ashton Swan and APPLAUSE! Musicals in Concert for bringing Sondheim to Vancouver.  It was a rare treat.  I can only hope that this is the start of bringing first rate Broadway talent (in all forms) to our city, as there certainly seems to be the appetite for it.

Ryan Mooney is the artistic director and founder of Fighting Chance Productions.

Sondheim’s Road Show: Original Cast Recording

I’ve been half-heartedly mulling over purchasing Tuesday’s newly-released original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim’s “new” (the quotation marks being quite significant) musical Road Show.  This version played off-Broadway in New York in October of 2008 and starred Michael Cerveris (The Who’s Tommy, Assassins) and Alexander Gemignani (Assassins, Les Misérables) as the Mizner brothers, Wilson and Addison.


The general plot revolves around the lives of the pair seeking their fortunes during the first half of the 20th century.  They attempt to take advantage of both the Alaskan Gold Rush and the Florida real estate boom through some legitimate and some not-so legitimate schemes.

This show is by no means new, over the years it’s gone through multiple changes.  Directed by Sam Mendes, it was originally premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in the fall of 1999 under the moniker Wise Guys.  Victor Garber (Sweeney Todd) and Nathan Lane (The Producers, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) played Wilson and Addison, respectively.

The show was rewritten and opened in Chicago in 2003 under the new name Bounce with Richard Kind (The Producers, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) and Howard McGillin (The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Kiss of the Spider Woman) as Addison and Wilson.  A cast recording of that production was released in 2004, which I do have.

The original Bounce recording was nothing spectacular, but it does have a few bright spots and even this mediocre Sondheim album has garnered a few repeat listens from me.

Which brings us back to the latest (and perhaps final incarnation) 2008 production, Road Show.  I’ve done some cursory comparisons of the 2004 recording to this latest release and there do appear to be some major changes.  The lyrics of the titular song “Bounce” have been scrapped and the melody re-purposed into “Waste.”  Maybe I’m just sentimental, but I prefer the earlier version.

Other songs seem to have been replaced entirely.  Overall, though Sondheim may have darkened the mood and tone of the newest show, from the recordings alone, it doesn’t seem that different.  For now at least, I’ll stick to Bounce and leave Road Show off of my must-buys list.


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Company, Into the Woods), book by John Weidman (Big, Assassins).  Both the Road Show and Bounce original cast recordings are available on both Amazon  and iTunes.