AISLE SAY San Francisco


Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by David Stern
Directed by Robert Kelley
Presented by TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St.
Mountain View, CA / (650) 903-6000

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz has given us hit musicals like "Godspell," "Pippin" and "Wicked." He also has a string of less well-known or less successful shows like "Children of Eden" and "The Baker's Wife." "Rags,"for which he was the lyricist, was a bomb on Broadway, but it was terrific when artistic director Robert Kelley staged it for TheatreWorks several seasons ago. Kelley has turned to Schwartz again as the company opens its 39th season. This time the show is "Snapshots," a book musical featuring songs taken from, adapted from or cut from Schwartz musicals, plus the new title song. The show was conceived by Michael Scheman and David Stern, who also wrote the book. Additional music and lyrics are by David Crane, Seth Friedman, Marta Kaufman and Charles Strouse. Schwartz and Stern were in residence and tweaked the show during rehearsals. They also attended opening night.

Stern's book focuses on an empty-nester Connecticut couple, Sue (Beth DeVries) and Dan (Ray Wills), whose marriage has gone stale. Or it least it has for unhappy Sue, who has decided to leave Dan. She's in the attic to retrieve her suitcase when she runs across a box of snapshots going back to long before they were married. Just then, Dan returns home from work early. The play then goes back and forth as two other sets of actors portray the couple in their younger years.

The youngest couple, Danny (Brian Crum) and Susie (Courtney Stokes), meet as youngsters when Danny is the "New Kid in the Neighborhood" (from "Captain Louie"). They're best friends, but they never become sweethearts. Danny appears unable to express his true affection for Susie, who's more than fond of him. This situation continues for several years -- with both becoming involved with other people -- until finally Daniel (Michael Marcotte) and Susan (Molly Bell) act on their love and get married. Sue and Dan watch these events unfold, often commenting on what's happening. It becomes clear that Dan isn't aware or doesn't care that the romance has disappeared from their relationship, but that seems to be the problem from Sue's perspective.

Kelley, who's also credited with the musical staging (Alex Perez is associate choreographer), directs the show sure-handedly and paces it well. All six performers are excellent singers who blend well in various combinations. This is especially true of the women, as in "Meadowlark" (from "The Baker's Wife"). Marcotte as Daniel and Crum as Danny both do well. Wills is saddled with Dan's less well developed character. He's mostly a passive observer.

Joe Ragey's cluttered attic set, lighted by Steven B. Mannshardt, works well, giving the actors places to change costumes (designed by Fumiko Bielefeldt) and pick up props. Musical director William Liberatore also sits with the four-member band, conducting from the keyboards. The songs are tuneful even if many aren't very familiar. Perhaps the best known are "Popular" from "Wicked" (sung by Stokes as Susie) and "All Good Gifts" from "Godspell" (sung by Wills as Dan and Marcotte as Daniel).

Despite all the best efforts of the cast and TheatreWorks artistic team, weaknesses in the book undermine "Snapshots." Thus it's a pleasant but not particularly memorable show.

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