Left – Silvie Paladino and Kane Alexander. Cover – Mark Dickinson, Tod Strike and Kane Alexander. Photos – Ben Fon
The musical works of Stephen Sondheim have certainly had a good run in Melbourne lately, with productions of Assassins, Into the Woods and Pacific Overtures all being produced with much success. Life Like Company have launched their first production with a rarely performed Sondheim – Passion, with the addition of an extra scene that was added post-Broadway, but not always included.
Set in 19th Century Italy, Passion deals with some complex issues. A handsome soldier (Giorgio), already embroiled in an affair with an attractive married woman (Clara), becomes the fixation of a sick, mentally ill woman (Fosca). The man's perceptions of love are challenged and as with any such work, it is destined to not end well – for anyone.
The fact that Passion is rarely performed says a great deal more about the show than any synopsis. Passion is at times challenging, yet haunting, dark yet quite emotional. This is a risky work for any company to attempt, and not commercially attractive.
Life Like have to be commended for staging this production, and while it has kept the design to a minimum, it has assembled an impressive company of performers and creatives to bring the show to life.
Much of the credit must go to director Neil Gooding and music director Guy Simpson. Rob Sowinski and Tom Warneke's lighting design add much needed atmosphere. Strong performances and a fine ensemble of musicians bring out the best in this work. The work itself though is not without flaws.
Sondheim (music and lyrics) collaborated with James Lapine (book) to adapt the story from an Italian film, Passione D'Amore, which in turn was adapted from a 19th Century novel, Fosca. Sondheim and Lapine have created a lyrical piece of music theatre, but have not always been able to overcome some of the melodrama of this tale of extreme obsessive love.
A fine cast, however, have come together, and rarely do we get to see as many accomplished performers sharing a stage. The central roles are well played by Kane Alexander (Giorgio), Silvie Paladino (Clara) and Theresa Borg (Fosca), all in fine voice, delivering strong performances. The characters are challenging, adding to the complex musical structure that Sondheim creates.
John O'May, Mark Dickinson, Jolyon James, Cameron MacDonald, Tod Strike, Troy Sussman and Glaston Toft add great support.
Passion is sometimes challenging, but is far from inaccessible. It is a story that will make you think about what real love is. Sondheim fans should relish this opportunity to see and experience this production.
Life Like Company presents
by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Director Neil Gooding
Venue: The Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
Dates: 5 – 8 November, 2014
Bookings: (03) 9281 8000 | www.passionthemusical.com.au