There Won’t Be Trumpets but there will be Anne Wood.
Sondheim’s Follies is essentially an ensemble show but for audiences of The Production Company’s 2008 staging one performer stood head and shoulders above the rest. As Phyllis Stone, Anne Wood displayed her vocal strength and the depth of her acting ability.
I managed to catch up with Aaron Joyner, Director of Anyone Can Whistle and Head Honcho of Magnormos, which was no mean feat given that he is so busy during these three weeks that even his trips between home, work and rehearsals are scheduled into his iCalendar.
I asked about whether the staging would be similar “We will also be using projections. That is a throughline of the Triptych. The other elements are concert costuming and use of scripts. The Merrily cast will be using the bound book scripts and the Whistle cast will be using black folders as were used in Saturday Night.”
A noted concert version of Anyone Can Whistle was staged at Carnegie Hall in 1995 and was recorded for cd. Angela Lansbury, who made her stage debut as Cora in the very short-lived 1964 premiere, was the Narrator, with Madeline Khan as Cora, Bernadette Peters as Faye and Scott Bakula as Hapgood. 2005’s Ravinia Festival in Illinois featured Patti LuPone as Cora, Audra McDonald as Faye and Michael Cerveris as Hapgood. Another starry cast was featured this year at the New York City Center Encores staging, where Donna Murphy played Cora, Sutton Foster played Faye and Raul Esparza played Hapgood.
Joyner was very enthusiastic in talking the new concert version of the script that is to be used. “There was a lot of text in the original, it was very book heavy. And there were three ballets! It was not suitable for a concert” Joyner put together some cuts and changes that he wanted to make and sent it through to the publishers. He was delighted when he subsequently received Arthur Laurents’ new concert script. “This version is all about the score and those amazing songs. The book helps that along. Some incidental music is gone and some parts are shuffled.” “It has been written with four narrators and I have four terrific dancer/singer/actors from APO – a teacher and three students.”
I asked about how the connection to APO originated. “Laura Tipoki, our MD teaches at APO. They were rapt. Their sound is extraordinary. When you hear all 40 of them singing is absolutely amazing. At this stage the ensemble numbers are all fully choreographed then I get to work with the leads next week.”
Joyner has thoroughly enjoyed working with Tipoki, feeling that have been very much in tune with each other. The performance will feature Tipoki, who has written the arrangements, and another pianist on two Steinway pianos and percussion. “Laura, Tamara Finch, the choreographer, and I have all been really in sync which is important in a show where the script, music and movement are so linked.”
Joyner has been thrilled with the performers that were attracted to performing in the concerts, and describes the Anyone Can Whistle cast as a ‘galaxy of stars’. I mentioned that I am looking forward to seeing Anne Wood doing Sondheim again. “It’s such a great role for her,” agrees Joyner. “The role of Cora is a real star turn. She carries a significant amount of the score.”
Patrice Tipoki, who is playing Faye, is the sister of Laura. Joyner gave me some background on her previous performances: “Patrice was Nala in The Lion King and was a cover in We Will Rock You. She has been sharing the role of Elphaba in Wicked in Sydney. Stephen Schwartz actually asked to see her in the role when he was out here recently.”
Finally, I brought up the topic of microphones, a point of discussion after Saturday Night. Joyner explained that they are making a change for the next two concerts. “Yes, we are going to use mikes for the next two. There will be radio mikes on the performers, but these will be fairly subtle. The older actors are also probably more used to projecting for an acoustic venue.” Microphones were originally to have been used but the decision to perform unamplified was made by the musical directors and was based on the acoustic nature of the venue. “Another problem has been that the performers have not had a lot of time to get used performing in the venue.”
Anyone Can Whistle plays at the Melbourne Recital Centre on Monday 4 October. See What’s On for further details.
Here is the full cast list:
Cora Hoover Hooper: Anne Wood
Jay Bowden Hapgood: Dan Humphris
Fay Apple: Patrice Tipoki
Controller Schub: Robert Grubb
Treasurer Cooley / Dr. Detmold: Don Bridges
Officer Magruder: Mark Doggett
Mrs Schroeder: Sally Bourne
Baby Joan: Cassandra Palmieri
Narrators: Jack Feehan, Zack Curran, David Price, Joshua Stanbury
Ensemble: APO Arts Academy Music Theatre students:
Jared Bryan, Isabella Capelli, Siobhan Donovan, Racel Doust, Alexandra Frank, Celina Yuen, Amelia Homes, Michael Martini-Saad, Kathleen McMenamin, Jessica Mortlock, Tracey O’Brien, Lucy Ross, Jacqueline Sim, Charlotte Tooke, Camille Wai, Avalon Westcott, Joseph Bootten, Alexia Brinsley, Sophie Cheeseman, Ben Doncon, Matthew Dorning, Melissa Hann, Melissa Harrington, Belinda Jenkin, Madeline Kadziela, William McKinna-Hannagan, Cherie Morgan, Rachel Rai, Jessica Terrill, Krista Thomson, Adam Tonking, Rocco Trimboli, Ashlea Vanyai, Eva Anagnostou, Joseph Naim