Side by Side by Sondheim

The country that launched "Side by Side by Sondheim" in 1975 does it no favors two decades later, and if its namesake weren't such an English icon, the revue's lamentably directed and designed current revival would barely be worth mentioning. Very much worth a mention is British comedienne Dawn French, who takes creator Ned Sherrin's original assignment of narrator to new and dizzy heights. French (sadly, already replaced in a rotating roster of narrators that will include Sheridan Morley and Labour politician and newspaper columnist Roy Hattersley) isn't widely known in the U.S., but she possesses a sass, bite and cheerful vulgarity that are, well, very Broadway. As for the rest of director Matthew Francis' cast, don't send in the clowns; they're already there.

With:
Dawn French, Liza Sadovy, Kathryn Evans, David Malek

French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. “Like me.”

Indeed, her absences are all too noticeable, since they place the burden of the show on the frail shoulders of artists among whom only musical director Michael Haslam, the invaluable first pianist, keeps pace with the visiting star. An alumna of the Donmar Warehouse “Company,” Liza Sadovy misses as many notes as she hits, and she is, frankly, painful at the start of “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” a number that here substitutes coy English play-acting for Broadway bump-and-grind.

Malek, the resident pretty boy, is woefully overindulged by choreographer Andrew George (in “Beautiful Girls,” most noticeably) and Kathryn Evans (terrific earlier this season in “The Fix”) employs a panoply of accents as misguided as the decision to give her “I’m Still Here,” when the song’s logical interpreter sits idly by in French. “There’s a rather talented tool here,” says French of her own vocal talents that go unused. Well, maybe next year.

Side by Side by Sondheim

LONDON at the Greenwich Theater; Opened, reviewed July 28, 1997; 407 seats; , £16.50 ($27.50) top

Production: A Greenwich Theater presentation of the musical revue in two acts, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, with additional music by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne, book by Ned Sherrin. Directed by Matthew Francis. Sets and costumes, Lez Brotherston

Creative: lighting, Howard Harrison; choreography, Andrew George; sound, Ed Brimley; musical direction, Michael Haslam.. Running time: 2 HOURS, 50 MIN

Cast: Dawn French, Liza Sadovy, Kathryn Evans, David Malek

More Legit

  • Stagecraft podcast John Leguizamo

    Stagecraft Podcast: John Leguizamo Says He's a 'True Ghetto Nerd'

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • The Go-Go's

    Go-Go's Musical 'Head Over Heels,' Produced by Gwyneth Paltrow, Targets Broadway for 2018-19

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • Farinelli and the King Broadway

    Broadway Box Office: 'Farinelli and the King' Makes Royal Debut

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • Downtown Race Riot review

    Off Broadway Review: Chloë Sevigny in 'Downtown Race Riot'

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • Goats review

    London Theater Review: 'Goats'

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • Describe the Night review

    Off Broadway Review: Rajiv Joseph's 'Describe the Night'

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

  • Stagecraft podcast Julie Taymor David Henry

    Stagecraft Podcast: Julie Taymor, David Henry Hwang Talk 'M. Butterfly' and Gender in 2017

    French would make an inspired Pseudolus if Jerry Zaks’ distaff “Forum” ever crosses the Atlantic. “I bet when you’re a jet you’re a jet,” she purrs at performer David Malek, turning her overweight sex- and song-obsessed commentator into a heavyweight diva. “I just wondered if you noticed anything missing in the opening number,” French asks. […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content