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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Carmel Theatre Company is back! Guided by the able hands of John Clair and June McCarty Clair, the recently homeless theatre company, displaced by the demise of its Studio 15 digs on 1st Ave NE, has found a new home on 1st Ave SW in Will Woods’ new venue – The Cat, formerly known as The Warehouse. Last night, Mrs. K and I had the pleasure of attending the kick-off show for this new alliance – Side by Side by Sondheim.

This celebration of premier Broadway lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim has been in the works since last December and was originally slated to be produced at a local church. But fate and some luck lead the production, directed by Ellen Kingston, to this comfortable setting in downtown Carmel, just across the street from the Indiana Design Center, where one may park to attend.

With fine keyboard accompaniment by David Duncan and Dede Mantock, the show features local singing talents – Thom Brown, Carolyn Lynch, Gail Payne, Matthew Vire and director Ms. Kingston – performing the 30 or so songs in the revue-style program.

cast

Every cast member has a chance to shine – Ellen Kingston leads the way with her emotional “Send in the Clowns”, Thom Brown presents a slightly quirky “Could I Leave You?”, Gail Payne offers a wistful “I Think About You”, Matthew Vire has great fun with the neurotic “Buddy Blues”, and Carolyn Lynch is perfect in the part of Maria (from West Side Story) as she shares the “A Boy Like That/I Have a Love” duet with Ms. Payne.

The ensemble is best when performing scenes from the musicals Sondheim wrote. Mr. Vire and Ms. Lynch share in the humorous “Barcelona”, the three ladies end the first act with a rousing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”, and Ms. Kingston and Mr. Brown join forces for “You Must Meet My Wife”. Mr. Vire, Ms. Lynch and Ms. Kingston share in the remarkable “Getting Married Today”.

There are a plethora of costumes to suit the many moods and scenes in the show. Ellen Kingston was at work on these as well, with notable assistance by Patricia Dorwin. Dresser Debbie Coon was no doubt a busy lady backstage.

All told, the show is a very entertaining 2 hours of memorable Sondheim tunes with added anecdotes and info from Ms. Kingston’s narration. The only marks against the proceedings might be what I saw as an unevenness in the energy set forth in some of the singing performances. I couldn’t tell if this was an attempt at subtlety or a genuine lack of spark after a long rehearsal week. Regardless, it didn’t detract from all that gleamed in the show – nor in the enjoyment the opening night audience obviously felt and showed at the curtain call.

CTC’s Side by Side by Sondheim continues at The Cat (254 1st Ave SW in Carmel) weekends through May 13 with one Sunday matinee on May 7 at 2:30 PM. Evening shows are at 7 PM. For reservations go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2912415 or call CTC at 317-688-8876.

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