The super sound of Sondheim in Danville and California Symphony at the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch, real treasure for true entertainment seekers!

Stephen Sondheim brings three decades of lyric magic together in the 1992 musical, Putting It Together!

The sound of Sondheim is unique, his musical scores, his lyrics, his stories, are all sophisticated tapestries into which he weaves the contents, conflicts, joys, trials and tribulations of our lives.

This week, I am reviewing a terrific Sondheim musical entitled, Putting It Together, that was first produced starring Diana Rigg (of “The Avengers” fame) in England in 1992, and is currently being produced in Danville, by the Role Players Ensemble in the Danville Village Theatre.

Sondheim is a playwright and a politician, a social historian and an entertainer. His music has a consistent and repetitive sound that is certainly identifiable with him. Further, his lyrics are constructed like mini-plays, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. When Sondheim was 15 years old he lived next door to Oscar Hammerstein and brought to Hammerstein his first musical, asking him to read it and to be completely honest. Hammerstein purportedly read and reviewed Sondheim’s work, responding that it was “the worst thing that ever crossed my desk!” Hammerstein went on to tell him that if he wanted to write musicals, “why don’t you take a good play, one that you like, and make it into a musical?” He then became Sondheim’s mentor and guided him through an extensive training process in play writing and musical construction.

Today, Sondheim is perhaps the most prolific musical playwright in American musical theatre. He is also one of the most honest of social story tellers and lyricists on the theatrical scene, as his musicals incorporate the most varied story concepts imaginable. From playing upon the ethnic and social undercurrent defining neighborhood fiefdoms in West Side Story (1957), to the westernization of Japan in Pacific Overtures (1976), to the inequity of class distinctions and revenge-tragedy in Sweeney Todd (1979), to re-defining the consummate happy-go-lucky fairy tale (that prescribed life relationships as love and bliss that continue “happily ever-after”) into the stark reality of life’s ongoing romantic disasters, as described in his poetic allegory, Into The Woods (1987).

Sondheim’s successes just seem to roll on and on and on, decade after decade, successes such as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum (1962), for which he wrote both the music and lyrics, Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park With George (1983), and many, many others. If it were not for the diversity of subject matter in his many musicals, Putting It Together would not have been “put together”, as this musical is a compilation of songs taken from his many different shows and combined to tell its own unique story of relationships.

Director Kathryn McCarty has brought together an excellent cast of outstanding performers to meld this musical into a very memorable production, heartwarming, heartbreaking, poignant, upbeat and funny, all in the same show. John and Marcia Hetzler are a husband and wife team who have been performing locally for years and enjoy a strong following of appreciative theatergoers. Will Giammona, Lillian Askew, and Mark Enea balance out the colorful and copasetic cast of romantic characters.

This marriage of music from Sondheim’s many, many musicals works very well, especially when delivered by the fine acting ability of these entertainers. Some of the songs you may remember that grace the story line, include the hilarious “Lovely” and “Everybody Ought To Have A Maid”, both from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), “Not Getting Married”, “Could I Leave You”, and “Marry Me A Little” from Company, “Pretty Women”, from Sweeny Todd, “Hello Little Girl”, from Into the Woods, and “Do I Hear A Waltz”, from Do I Hear A Waltz. This is a superb evening of entertainment that brought a standing ovation from the audience.

Director Kathy McCarty is assisted very ably by Choreographer Renae Klein and Joan Cifarelli is the musical director. Cifarelli leads the little show combo as pianist, accompanied by Danny Min (Bass), Scott Welsh (percussion), and/ or Juan Carreon (as substitute percussion). This show is produced by Sharon and Don Ritchey.

This intriguing and very enjoyable musical plays Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., now through May 12th in the Village Theatre at 233 Front Street, in Danville, next door to the Danville Town Meeting Hall. Great entertainment - - don’t miss it! Call (925) 820-1278 or visit their website at for ticket pricing and more information.

Like the fabled Phoenix, the El Campanil Theatre in Antioch has been born again, beautiful and luxurious, almost beyond description!

If you have not had an opportunity to drive out to Antioch to see the multi-million dollar restoration of the El Campanil Theatre, then by all means find a reason to see this exquisite historic theatre, restored now in all its glory!

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend the California Symphony’s bold, brilliant and beautifully conducted concert entitled “Broadway and Beyond”, in the El Campanil Theatre, featuring Tony Award winning Broadway singer/entertainer, Michael Maquire. Wow and double Wow! These are about the only expletives that come to mind!

Conductor Berry Jekowsky is simply superlative and the 65 member orchestra is thrilling beyond words to adequately express. Combine this with the magnificent voice of Michael Maquire and we had an evening that will be long remembered. While this was a one evening event, it inspired me to seek out future opportunities to enjoy the incredible musical experiences offered by this premier company. You can check out their upcoming concert series by going on line to or calling (925) 280-2490 for tickets and more information.

You can also check out future events coming to the El Campanil Theatre by going to their website at or call (925) 757-9500 to check out such events as “Aja Vu – The Music of Steely Dan” coming up on May 4th and the “Contra Costa Fiddle Competition featuring The Bluegrass Intentions, coming on May 12th. Returning on Sunday April 29, 2007 at 3 pm is the Contra Costa Jazz Band - an 18-piece swing band based in Walnut Creek, California. It is made up of talented musicians from the Contra Costa Area and beyond. The CC Jazz Band's emphasis is on Big Band music of the 1940's, but its broad repertoire includes jazz, Latin, swing and modern arrangements. The theatre is located at 602 West Second Avenue in down-town Antioch.

The entire downtown area is undergoing a major renovation, is becoming very attractive and new businesses are moving in. The theater is only a few blocks from one of the better restaurants in the area, Humphreys - On the Delta Restaurant (at #1 Marina Plaza), which I highly recommend. Karen and I have eaten there the last two times we have visited the area and found the food and service extraordinary. Visit their website at to see what a beautiful restaurant this is.