(Photo credit: Brian Miller/Chorus Photography)

PUTTING IT TOGETHER is Night of Nostalgia

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Forge Theatre in Phoenixville has a holiday present, especially for those who are long-standing patrons…PUTTING IT TOGETHER, a collection of songs by Steven Sondheim performed by some of the more beloved Forge veterans.

The cast of PUTTING IT TOGETHER at Forge Theatre.

The cast of PUTTING IT TOGETHER at Forge Theatre.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER is the second musical revue compiled by Sondheim, this one in collaboration with Julia McKenzie, after many requests for another one after his successful SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM. It has a collection of his songs from his early musicals (Forum, Company) and some later ones (Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along.) There is a slight plot to the show, with the revue staged at a party in a penthouse hosted by an older couple (Lew Osterhoudt and Regina DePaolis,) attended by a younger couple (Greg Morton, Samantha Riesenberg) and a commentator (Bob Goretski.) I should mention at this point that the women’s parts are actually divided through the run, with Kate Nice also playing the hostess of the party, and Amy Osterhoudt and Melanie Magolan sharing duties as the female guest.

There is very little dialogue other than the occasional ad lib by this mostly-veteran cast. Goretski “introduces” musical vignettes with mainly one-word descriptions of what is going to transpire. So, the evening is full of music, much to the delight of the audience.

Co-directors Jim Kelsh and Christa Wisneski did a nice job of selecting couples, at least at this performance. The interplay between Osterhoudt and DePaolis in particular was very fun to watch…it was obvious even to the non-Forge patron that these two have worked together before, and enjoy each other. Goretski is very comfortable in front of an audience, and is having a good time on stage. Riesenberg has a lovely voice and a nice gift for musical comedy, and Morton has a mellow voice that worked nicely with the songs he was singing.

I’m not sure how the multiple casting is going to work…the men at times seemed to be unsure what their female counterparts were going to do, most likely because of slight differences between performers. And, Sondheim is so very difficult to sing…it’s atonal at times, the harmonies are not traditional, and the vocal ranges required sometimes challenge even the best performers. The Forge cast collectively has the gift of selling songs, but the execution at times wasn’t Sondheim-esque. Still, this was an evening to celebrate the performers on stage, and on that level, it’s a wonderful evening of entertainment. The audience on opening night was captivated, and gave the cast a standing “O” for their efforts.

Words and Music by Steven Sondheim
Devised by Steven Sondheim and Julia McKenzie
Co-Directed by Jim Kelsh and Christa Wisneski
Music Director – Denise Wisneski
November 1 – 24, 2013
Forge Theatre
241 First Avenue, Phoenixville PA
(610) 935-1920


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Walter Bender

Walter Bender

Walter Bender is a veteran of over 35 years performing all over the country. He attended Texas Lutheran University as a Theatre Arts and Vocal Performance major. While in college he toured much of the Southern and Western states with various acting and singing groups. He appeared briefly on radio in San Antonio and on TV in Miami while in college. Moving back to PA, he has performed in well over 100 amateur and professional theatrical productions, and directed dozens more throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Among his favorite roles are Lt. Colonel Jessup (A Few Good Men), Daddy Warbucks (Annie), and most recently he was George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Arguably his favorite theatrical memory was creating the role of Alan Frick in A Fast Train to Heaven for Bill Gottshall Productions. He is co-founder of Spring-Ford Community Theater, has served as Managing Director of 2 different theaters, Artistic Director of a third and President of another. He worked for the Delaware Valley Arts Institute, where he worked with many wonderful artists and instructors, culminating in being selected to facilitate a post-graduate course at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Currently he serves on the board of directors for dcp theatre as their Director of Corporate Communications.

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