Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by David Stern
Directed by Ken Sawyer
This album well worth viewing
Take a direct, simple story, unfold it with exquisite care, and the result is a gem of a play opening Northlight’s 37th season.
The plot of this Chicago première of Snapshots is easy to sum up: Sue and Dan (Susan McMonagle and Gene Weygandt), middle-aged empty nesters, find a hoard of old pictures in their attic. Sue plans to leave Dan, and is just about to tell him so when they begin to examine the photos and reminisce about their early years together (Act I) before honing in on an examination the ways they have drifted apart (Act II).
The snapshots, originally photos clutched in their hands, become large projections on the paneled walls before actually springing to life in the form of two incarnations of their earlier selves: Susie and Danny (Megan Long and Nick Cosgrove) and Susan and Daniel (Jess Godwin and Tony Clarno). The three couples interact to sing and dramatize specific, emotion-filled episodes that trace the two from their early days in elementary school — hitting on many rites of passage — before moving on to courtship and highlights of their 30 years together.
And what songs they are: 28 drawn from 12 successful musicals – all written by Stephen Schwartz. The melodies are recognizable from many of these shows which include Wicked, Pippin, Godspell, The Magic Show, Rags, Personals, The Baker’s Wife, Enchanted, Captain Louie, Working, Reluctant Pilgrim and Children of Eden – but the lyrics have been rewritten to fit the new dramatic situation.
Schwartz has said that to his knowledge this has never been done before. That’s why he titles it a scrapbook rather than a review or book musical. For the first time, an original songwriter has revised his lyrics to enhance storytelling. And it works!
The cast has remarkable voices, clear and compelling and their dramatic ability marches the timbre – moving from humor to nostalgia with ease as past and present intermingle and advice is exchanged back and forth, neatly breaking barriers as they address their earlier selves. It is an imaginative tour de force – brilliantly executed. What might be clunky in other hands, flows smoothly under the expert direction of Ken Sawyer.
Kudos to Jack Magaw for the multi-level set, Karl Christian for musical staging, Steve Orich for Musical direction and arrangements, and to the orchestra: Chris Sargent, Scott Reed, Paul Dallas, Jeffrey Handley and Marc Hogan.
While Act I is stronger than the slower second act, by play’s end the viewers responded to much that reached their hearts. On opening night, not a few wiped away tears as they joined the rest of the audience for a standing ovation.
Beverly Friend, Ph D.
Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, 847-673-6300. tickets $25-65 ($10 for those under 25, subject to availability), Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Wednesdays at 1 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30, Sundays at 7 pm through October 23. Running time 2 hours and 10 minutes including a 15-minute intermission.