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THEATER REVEIW:Nonstop showstoppers

September 29, 2006|By TOM TITUS

If any theater were to present a true Stephen Sondheim retrospective highlighting the Broadway composer's first 50 years (which will come to fruition in 2007), audiences would have to bring their midnight snacks — and breakfast.

Failing that, we still have "Side by Side by Sondheim," a musical revue that celebrates approximately the first half of his career, before such shows as "Sweeney Todd," "Into the Woods" or "Assassins." But there's still plenty of material from which to draw.

Vanguard University in Costa Mesa has taken on the task of mounting "Side by Side" with a few embellishments. Most productions of the show feature one male singer, two females and a piano.

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At Vanguard, we have three guys and four gals, making it both easier to segue from one number to another and handle the unrequired costume changes.

The Vanguard show, directed by Sondheim veteran Myrona DeLaney, is a total delight — even when the singers are striving to be heard over a scratchy sound system, as Aaron Wheeler and Michelle Peltz are in their duet "We're Gonna Be Alright." They certainly are, but the jury's still out on the sound.

Both Wheeler and Peltz are freshmen and both no doubt will be heard from again many times over the next four years.

They already excel in the Sondheim revue, Wheeler belting out the anthem to optimism "Being Alive" and Peltz warbling the hilarious — and exceedingly challenging — "Getting Married Today."

The latter number, from "Company," is one of several saluting that landmark show. Jeff Fazakerley and Colleen Warner are particularly appealing in "Barcelona" — the comic aftermath of a one-night stand — while Jenna Lloyd impresses with the frantic "Another Hundred People."

Fazakerley and Caitlin Macy-Beckwith celebrate "The Little Things" and the entire cast chimes in with the title number.

Sondheim's first show, "West Side Story," produced the tension-filled duets "A Boy Like That" and "I Have a Love," splendidly rendered by Warner and Macy-Beckwith. His second, "Gypsy," is comically represented by Peltz, Macy-Beckwith and Lloyd as the three strippers explaining why "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."

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