Wednesday, June 19, 2024

TheatreWorks premieres Sondheim revue, "Being Alive"


The actors (from left) Anne Tolpegin, Sleiman Alahmadieh, Solona Husband, Noel Anthony, Nick Nakashima, and Melissa WolfKlain) embrace new possibilities. (Kevin Berne photo)

The late composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim was an incomparable genius of the American musical theatrer.

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley honors him with the world premiere of a homegrown revue, “Being Alive: A Sondheim Celebration.”

Conceived and directed by the company’s retired founder-artistic director Robert Kelley, in collaboration with musical director William Liberatore, it focuses on love and romantic relationships in all their ups, downs and permutations in Sondheim’s complex music, rhythms and lyrics.

In this revue, three women and three men portray actors rehearsing a musical.

“Being Alive” delves into some of the songs from Sondheim’s treasure chest of great musicals. Some are well known, others not so much. TheatreWorks has staged 20 of his works, some more than once. Kelley directed most of them.

As Kelley wrote in his director’s notes, the licensing agent for Sondheim’s works had strict rules:

The songs could come from only 15 of his works with no more than three from any one show and only three more songs from the five previous Sondheim revues, and they had to have been cut from other works. That left a choice of a mere 334 songs, Kelley wrote.

Hence some viewers might be disappointed that a favorite isn’t included, but the show still has some memorable tunes such as “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods,” “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music” and more.

The six performers all sing and act well as they portray relationships in various stages. They’re loosely paired by ages with Sleiman Alahmadieh and Solana Husband as 20-somethings, Nick Nakashima and Melissa WolfKlain as 30-somethings, and Noel Anthony and Anne Tolpegin as the 40-somethings.

Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costume design puts them in street clothes for the first act’s run-through and their performance costumes for the dress rehearsal of the second act.

Although associate director Alex Perez’s choreography is perhaps secondary, it nevertheless suits the mood and adds interest to each song.

With appropriate lighting by Pamila Z. Gray, Wilson Chin’s scenic design features a few set pieces and a background of the backs of flats stamped with the names of the Sondheim shows for which they supposedly were used. The sound design is by Cliff Caruthers.

Running about two hours with an intermission, “Being Alive” is both interesting and entertaining. It will continue through June 30 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

For tickets and information, call (877) 662-8978 or visit