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Review: “Side by Side By Sondheim” at Signature Theatre

A bare-bones revue of 30 of Stephen Sondheim’s great songs

Matthew Scott and Nancy Anderson perform “Getting Married Today” in Side by Side by Sondheim at Signature Theatre.

*** Three stars out of four

Isn’t it warm, isn’t it rosy,

Side by side, by side … .

The title of the latest show at Signature Theatre, Side by Side by Sondheim, comes from Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway classic Company. The incomparable composer/lyricist’s songs are so witty, so clever, and so haunting that they need neither scenery nor costumes nor drama to support them. What we get at Signature is a pretty bare stage, three singers, two pianos, brief biographical commentary about the great man himself and then pure, unadulterated Sondheim.

It helps that the man is a genius. The revue covers his early lyrics in West Side Story and Gypsy as well as his unforgettable compositions for Company, A Little Night Music, and Follies, plus a few numbers from lesser-known shows.

The three singers—Washington favorite Sherri Edelin and New York imports Nancy Anderson and Matthew Scott—have admirable vocal range and do their best to cover a variety of roles. Anderson is a standout in both comic numbers and torch songs. She doesn’t miss a note or a footstep.

It isn’t always warm. It isn’t always rosy. Frankly, the show would benefit from a few more voices. But it is such a treat to hear that wonderful music, and an added bonus to see Signature’s multi-award-winning musical director, Jon Kalbfleisch, in the spotlight—with a speaking part—instead of hidden behind a screen.

“Side by Side by Sondheim” is at Signature Theatre through June 12. Tickets ($66 to $71) are available through Ticketmaster.

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