Programs

OCTOBER 2015

Florida School of the Arts presents “Simply Sondheim,” a musical revue

FloArts, Simply Sondheim, dancers, dancing
FloArts, Simply Sondheim, dancers, dancing
FloArts, Simply Sondheim, dancers, dancing

The Musical Theatre Project: “Simply Sondheim” comes to the Florida School of the Arts Main Stage at the St. Johns River State College Palatka campus October 29-31 at 7:30 p.m. and November 1 at 2:30 p.m. “Simply Sondheim” is a musical revue of the works of award-winning American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who has contributed to musical theatre for more than half a century. A variety of songs from this iconic composer’s collection of works and collaborations will be presented in a 90-minute performance by a cast of 10 FloArts students elegantly outfitted in tuxedos and red dresses.

The opening show has been designated as an optional ‘formal night’ for those who would like an evening of dress-up. Although not required, patrons attending Thursday’s performance are invited to dress to the nines. Admission for each performance is $5.

A total of 21 pieces will be performed, including selections such as “Comedy Tonight” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” from the musical turned into a movie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Students will also delight the audience with“Johanna,” “Pretty Women” and “Green Finch and Linnet Bird”from Sweeney Todd.“Agony,” “It Takes Two,” and “No One is Alone,” from Into the Woods will also be heard, as well as “What Can You Lose?” from the Dick Tracy movie.

Musical Theatre Project Director Stephanie Walter-Masterson, voice and musical theatre instructor, said, "Each year, the Project provides our students with additional opportunities to perform from the wide range of repertoire that constitutes the American musical theatre. Sometimes taking the form of a cabaret, sometimes a concert, sometimes the stage concert version of a musical, the Project allows the musical theatre faculty to challenge our students with a variety of work selected for its performance challenges, rather than the ability to be fully realized as a production inside our demanding production schedule."

Although emphasis will be placed on vocal, dance and acting work as opposed to design and production elements, Walter-Masterson said, "There will be enough enhancements from scenery, props, lighting and costumes to give the audience a flavor of the full production."

According to Walter-Masterson, while musical theatre buffs are familiar with Sondheim's musical talents, a large percentage of the public is not. Therefore, this revue is being presented "partly as an introduction for people who might not know Stephen Sondheim's music,” she said. It’s an opportunity for the public to get a taste of this complex composer and lyricist whose mentor was the great Oscar Hammerstein II, American librettist, theatrical producer and theatre director.

Sondheim became the composer and lyricist of choice for FloArts’ fall 2015 Musical Theatre Project because of the challenge his work offers students. Walter-Masterson said his music challenges her students to a new level in their singing, rhythmically, melodically and harmoniously.  "He has his light moments,” she said, “but he's more of an operatic type. He's more complex.”

Additionally, because this musical is being done in a revue setting, "it gives students the opportunity to sing songs they may not otherwise get a chance to sing," said Walter-Masterson. For instance, Eduardo Marin, a Hispanic cast member, will be singing “Maria” from Westside Story, a piece typically sung by an Italian.

Marin, a second-year student from Bonita Springs, Florida, said, “Every time you're on stage, you are that character from that show in that particular moment. It's not that we're just on stage singing, but every single piece is bringing that show. We’re taking the audience into the best parts of all of these shows. And just the fact that there are so many different musicals in ‘Simply Sondheim’ is really nice."

About the music-selection process, Walter-Masterson said, "I didn't even choose the music for these students until I chose them to be in the show. We had the auditions. Then, I chose the music according to their singing level and their voice types. I wanted to choose music that fit them well to give them a good experience and a good challenge, and it has come together faster than a lot of my shows have before."

Casting for “Simply Sondheim” took place the first day of classes. "I knew some of the music was a bit challenging, so we started early,” said Walter-Masterson. This early start also provided ample time for the cast to learn and solidify the bigger numbers with dances before the stage-blocking part of the process began.

"It's very difficult when you're in a show and the practices stretch out this long," Walter-Masterson said. The cast, comprised of five females and five males, has been practicing for about an hour to two, Monday to Friday, since the start of the fall semester. Therefore, in an effort to be kinder to her students’ schedules, Walter-Masterson decided to use some of her office hours for practices. This has helped the performers wrap up their days sooner rather than later, which has allowed them to eat dinner at a reasonable time and have time and energy for their academic work. This plan was also part of Walter-Masterson’s remedy for preventing cast members from getting sick, tired and burned out.

With songs from so many different musicals, Walter-Masterson promises there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

According to Marin, “We have upbeat songs; we have heart-wrenching ballads; we have things that are going to make you laugh, things that are going to make you cry. And that's the whole idea of a revue; we're taking the best of Sondheim and putting it on stage."

Cast members, all from Florida, include: Ilana Gould of Fleming Island, Katelyn Patterson of Panama City, Brooke Ponitz of Apopka, Rosvic Siason of Clearwater, Caitlin Sweeney of Seminole, Willie Beaton II of Jacksonville, Kevin Beckam of Tampa, Joseph Grosso of Bradenton, Gordia Hayes of Pensacola and Eduardo Marin of Bonita Springs.

Angel Warren is the Project’s costume coordinator; Luis Colon, scenic designer; Savannah Healy, stage manager; Bethany McLain, assistant stage manager; and Emma Stimpson, production assistant.

Jessica Mayhew and Jenne Vermes are faculty choreographers, and student choreographers are Willie Beaton II and Joseph Grosso.

Florida School of the Arts is part of the academic and administrative structure of SJR State and awards the two-year associate degree. The School serves the entire state of Florida and is located on the SJR State Palatka campus. For more information, call 386-312-4300 or visit the website at www.floarts.org.


PHOTO CAPTIONS:

Florida School of the Arts students Brooke Ponitz and Gordia Hayes rehearse for The Musical Theatre Project: “Simply Sondheim” that runs October 29 – November 1 on the St. Johns River State College Palatka campus. A total of 21 musical selections will be performed.

Florida School of the Arts students Caitlin Sweeney and Joseph Grosso rehearse for The Musical Theatre Project: “Simply Sondheim” that runs October 29 – November 1 on the St. Johns River State College Palatka campus. A total of 21 musical selections will be performed.

Florida School of the Arts students rehearse for The Musical Theatre Project: “Simply Sondheim” that runs October 29 – November 1 on the St. Johns River State College Palatka campus. A total of 21 musical selections will be performed by a cast of 10 students. Selections include “Comedy Tonight” and “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” from the movie, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; “Johanna,” “Pretty Women” and “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” from Sweeney Todd; and “Agony,” “It Takes Two,” and “No One is Alone,” from Into the Woods.