Comédies Musicales á Broadway – Sondheim at the Auditorium du Nouveaux Siecle, Lille.
Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
With Passion soon to open at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, the work of Stephen Sondheim has been getting even more exposure in France, beginning with this extraordinary concert performed by the Orchestre National de Lille.
Where else could you listen to Sondheim material played by a 90-piece orchestra accompanying three Broadway and West End vocalists?
World renowned conductor David Charles Abell, now a regular in France after serving as conductor for Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods at the Chatelet and Follies for Toulon Opera, was both conductor and MC on this occasion.
The Follies overture was followed by a selection from Sunday in the Park with the marvellous Liz Callaway as Dot and the equally excellent Damian Humbley as George, who also delivered an impressive ‘Maria’ from West Side Story.
We were then treated to an extensive Into the Woods medley, the highlight of which was Callaway’s rendition of ‘Children Will Listen’.
The great Adrian Der Gregorian gave us a tongue in cheek version of ‘All I Need is the Girl’, leading on to the Act I closer, ‘Everybody Ought to Have a Maid’ from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum.
Act II, opening with the Forum overture, which never sounded better, catered to two other Sondheim masterpieces previously presented at the Chatelet, Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, highlights of which were Der Gregorian’s rendition of ‘Johanna’ and Callaway’s interpretation of the classic ballad ‘Send in the Clowns’.
Humbley then delivered a heartfelt ‘Being Alive”, followed by the moving ‘Our Time’ from Merrily We Roll Along, leading to ‘Side by Side’ as an appropriate encore, pleasing the cheering crowd.
David Charles Abell’s French patter was both funny and to the point and so was Callaway’s amusing re-creation of the three lines from the opening number of Merrily she spoke in the original production.
The audience response was tremendously enthusiastic, especially as many of those present were hearing the material for the first time.
Clearly the French are opening up to American musical theatre and to the work of Stephen Sondheim in particular. We must thank the Orchestre National de Lille for its contribution and for treating us to such a memorable evening.