It’s been three years since its last production, a grand revival of Cabaret, but the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble is back, renewing its traditional summer musical theater presence in Provincetown with a lovely and powerful Sondheim Tribute Revue, playing at Fishermen Hall through July 29.
This revue is not a book musical like the company’s productions of Cabaret, Hair, and Chicago in years past but a collection of 28 songs with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, taken from his shows including Company, Follies, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Assassins, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George, and A Little Night Music.
As with the three previous Peregrine productions, Sondheim Tribute Revue is beautifully conceived and staged by director Kyle Pleasant. The songs here, however, are wrested from their book musical source and put together in the invented context of an evening soiree.
Among the six performers onstage, one, Darlene Van Alstyne, is a local celeb with a sultry lower register; three — Nina Pagan, Grace Fluharty, and Aïssatou Thiam — are students or recent grads of Marymount Manhattan College; and two are relative pros: Caitlin Zerra Rose, returning once again to Peregrine, and musical director Kelly Taylor Brown, who accompanies the group on piano throughout and does a marvelous job of providing a cohesive score.
The costumes, by Seth Bodie, are mostly glittering evening wear. The lighting (by Michael Clark Wonson), sound (by Chris Page), and the stage set, adorned with outsized picture frames by Ellen Rousseau (repurposed, fittingly, from the Kit Kat Club of Peregrine’s Cabaret) and artfully arranged sheet music plastered to the back wall, all work together to provide a transporting 90 minutes (sans intermission) of Sondheim, mostly featuring songs on the subject of love and the lack thereof.
Some of the tunes are shortened and others are combined contrapuntally, such as “Losing My Mind,” from Follies, about a maddening romantic obsession, sung by Grace Fluharty, and “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” from Company, sung by Nina Pagan. The entire program flows seamlessly, with barely a breather for applause between songs, which vary between light and dramatic, with an emphasis on heart-rending high notes.
The performers are consistently polished, but there are some highlights — Darlene Van Alstyne’s sly take on “The Little Things You Do Together” and “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, and, from the same show, Grace Fluharty’s motormouth rendition of “Not Getting Married Today.” Caitlin Zerra Rose is a revelation singing “Take Me to the World” from the made-for-TV Evening Primrose and the subtly savage “Could I Leave You?” from Follies. Nina Pagan’s soprano packs a punch, and Aïssatou Thiam has a lilting sweetness to her voice. Musical director Brown brings a touch of weary regret to “Send in the Clowns” from A Little Night Music, arguably Sondheim’s most popular song, in or out of context.
The group harmonies are thrilling, especially in the two climactic numbers, “Being Alive” from Company and “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park With George. The former is written for a single man aching with alienation and loneliness, and the latter is a celebration of what it takes to create a great work of art out of ordinary life. Much of that original meaning is lost in the format of a revue, but the rousing spirit is there, and director Pleasant and the Peregrine performers make the most of Sondheim’s brilliant songwriting.
In all, it’s great to have the Peregrine Theatre Ensemble back onstage where it belongs. Don’t miss an opportunity to see promising young talent doing thoughtfully crafted theater.
Send in the Gowns
The event: Peregrine Theatre Ensemble’s production of Sondheim Tribute Revue
The time: Through July 29, Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
The place: Fishermen Hall, 12 Winslow St., Provincetown (in the rear of Provincetown Schools; enter at Prince Street parking lot)
The cost: $63.50, including fees, at peregrinetheatre.com