From “Cinderella” to “Renaissance,” UB’s recent musical choices have varied greatly in recent years. But one great composer and lyricist has been absent from its line-up for over a decade.
Stephen Sondheim’s musical repertoire — vast and acclaimed, but complex and intense — creates the perfect challenge for UB’s theater students.
Many musical theater departments shy away from Sondheim’s repertoire — but UB’s program will no longer be one of them.
“As we’re looking at programming work for our students, we don’t necessarily have a population that fits into a production of ‘Sweeney Todd,’ that can do justice to the music at this point,” UB Theatre and Dance program Lab Series creator and professor James Beaudry said. “[The Lab Series] is a great way to do that and expose them to additional material, because a lot of the songs that they’ll be singing aren’t from shows that would necessarily be programmed in the department’s season.”
Students were eager to perform with their newfound creative liberty. Abby Tyler, a sophomore musical theater major, lit up the stage with her energetic performance of “Broadway Baby” from “Follies.” She belted out how she “would like to be on some marquee,” with a smile and twinkle in her eye.
.“Most of [Sondheim’s] songs deal with the deep inner monologue that we have and express things that we might not know how to,” Beaudry said.
“Broadway Baby” is no different, being a comedic song with a sense of longing to be loved that Tyler captures beautifully in her performance.
Performers tapped into Sondheim’s portrayals of loneliness and longing throughout the revue, some choosing to disengage from the audience to emphasize the feelings of isolation. Julia Pitaressi, a junior musical theater major, didn’t make eye contact with any audience members, but her performance of “Johanna” still made them tear up.
But the biggest tear-jerker came during the finale, when five seniors — Valentina Rodriguez, Kyra Orgass, Katie Lloyd, Isabella Gomez-Barientos and Glen Chitty — performed “Our Time” from “Merrily We Roll Along.” Linking arms and waving goodbye, the performance represents the culmination of their time with the UB Theatre and Dance program.
“We will find material for the students at all different levels,” Beaudry said. “I don’t believe in waiting to do something until you’re ready because you’ll never be ready.”
Attending a Lab Series show is free, although the department asks for donations to keep their programming going.
The arts desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophia Stines is a staff writer.