Sondheim and Bernstein revue brings musical theatre to campus

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A group of Queens College students performed a musical theatre recital titled “A Little Night of Sondheim and Bernstein” on Nov. 20 in the LeFrak Concert Hall.

The revue featured solo and ensemble musical numbers from shows composed by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.

Vocal performance major Michael Drozd began organizing the recital at the beginning of the semester, following the success of last spring’s Broadway themed revue.

“Last semester’s recital was a review of various songs, and I wanted to make this semester’s recital a little bit different by adding a theme,” Drozd said. “Stephen Sondheim is a well-respected composer in musical theater, pretty much everyone loves his music and because his songs are so clever and beautiful I just thought he would be a fun pick.”

Bernstein worked with Sondheim on multiple shows and was added to the revue to expand the selection of music, Drozd said. However, the show mainly features Sondheim songs.

The show opened with the ensemble number “Comedy Tonight” from Stephen Sondheim’s “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Two cast members introduced the performance with the famous line “playgoers I bid you welcome” from the show. The 13 cast members exhibited fervent energy and an obvious passion for what they were presenting.

The show included many famous songs composed by Sondheim and Bernstein as well as others not as well known.

Jessica Altieri, music education major and member of the Queens College acapella group “The iTones,” followed the opening act with a beautiful rendition of “So Many People” from Sondheim’s first and little-known work, “Saturday Night.” The show was written in 1954, but was unproduced until 1997.

“Into the Woods” by Sondheim and “West Side Story” by Bernstein were some of the better-known show choices of the night.

Yara Hoppenstein sang “I Feel Pretty,” made famous by Natalie Wood’s performance in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story.” Gillian Doupe also took on “West Side” with a solo arrangement of the ethereal “Somewhere.”

Gary Riera and Drozd captured the comedy of “Into the Woods,” Sondheim’s version of classic fairy tales, with the song “Agony,” which the two men portrayed princes puzzled over their lust for women. Amy Guarino portrayed Cinderella with the song “On the Steps of the Palace.” Her beautiful soprano expertly filled the large auditorium, exhibiting much skill as a singer.

The revue was student-run with the assistance of music professor Sandra Babb, who helped secure LeFrak as a venue.

Drozd hatched the idea for the recitals after realizing there was a lack of musical theatre on campus.

“From what I understand the theater department puts on a main stage musical every other spring semester and a bunch of us students think that it’s not enough,” Drozd said. “We have fantastic music, theater, and dance programs, but yet there is no solid bridge between them. These recitals could hopefully be the basis to strengthen that connection.”

Drozd plans on organizing another recital in spring 2015. One idea, he said, is a “gender-bender” recital. Performers who identify as female would sing songs usually sung by males and vice versa.

Eventually he would like to try and form a club dedicated to musical theatre performances.

“We have the talent and the passion, it’s just a matter of making it known,” Drozd said.

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