Playwright: music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
At: Theo Ubique at the No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave.
Phone: 773-743-3355; $22
Runs through: Dec. 10
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
A musical revue composed of a single composer's body of work soon makes us aware of the mannerisms on which even the most original artists coast now and then. Stephen Sondheim's long ( and seminal ) career has rendered his signatures especially recognizable: the frenzied patter and soaring fermatas. The staggering rhythms and startling melodic intervals. The slippery subtexts reflecting lovers' indecisiveness. Cynicism caustic enough to etch steel giving way to romantic melancholy worthy of Colette.
Fortunately, the roster for this revue includes many of Sondheim's collaborations with other songsmiths, notably Leonard Bernstein and Jule Styne. So for every cabaret classic like Company's Another Hundred People, A Little Night Music's Send In The Clowns and Follies' Losing My Mind, we get such rarely-performed curiosities as the bossa-nova parody Barcelona from The MAD Show, the double-entendre Can That Boy Ffffffoxtrot ( an outtake from the score for Follies ) , and the cheerfully bawdy I Never Do Anything Twice from The Seven-Percent Solution.
Theo Ubique is also blessed with a uniformly capable cast unafraid to put its own stamp on the more threadbare selections. Jeremy Trager's rendition of the aforementioned Losing My Mind, for example, replaces the hankie-wringing torchiness with Pagliacci-level resentment. The diminutive Dana Tretta belts forth the vitriolic Could I Leave You with never a hint of shrillness. Danielle Brothers' delivery of Send In The Clowns crescendos with seamless subtlety to finish in full-out passion. And Elizabeth Lesinski dons LED pasties for the playful You Gotta Have A Gimmick, only to be upstaged by Eric Lindahl's cross-gender turn as the sassy Louise.
If Sondheim had never written any song but Comedy Tonight, his place in the annals of American Musicals would still be assured. Though the No Exit Café's new owners need to hold up more of their end, Fred Anzevino's direction keeps the entertainment lively. If a medley featuring a tenor trilling I Feel Pretty, and then quickly segueing into A Boy Like That ( One of your own kind/stick to your own kind, etc. ) strikes your fancy-bone, this is a perfect low-stress evening out for Far Northsiders.