Do I Hear A Waltz? is a 1965 collaboration by a trio of icons of the musical theatre stage; music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents, adapted from his own 1952 play The Time of the Cuckoo. With that pedigree, it should have been a certified hit however the production was marred by infighting between the creators and then the show opened to mixed reviews, and mainly relegated to regional revivals. This brings Do I Hear A Waltz? to Applause! with its aim to bring audiences little known or forgotten musicals.
Applause! prides itself on bringing these productions to stage with just a week of rehearsals keeping a fresh spontaneous feel to the show, where anything could happen, from the performers losing their place in the scene or forgetting to turn the page in their songbooks. Seeing a Sunday afternoon performance, the last of the three day run, meant the performers had a little bit more polish but the closing of the run adds its own added energy to the show.
Once again Applause! has assembled a terrific cast of performers to sing the musical-in-concert, with book in hand. Cecilly Day plays Leona Samish, the leading lady is a New York Secretary travelling solo to Venice where she stays at Pensione Fioria. Hosted by the vivacious Signora Fioria (Mandana Namazi), a quartet of other American guests inhabit the pensione, the younger Yeagers (Jenaya Barker & Sean Patrick Sonier) who face marital struggles, and the McIlhennys (Johanna Goosen & Russell Cripps), an older couple on a package tour. Guided by odd-job boy Mauro (Benjamin Goas), during her exploration of Venice, Leona meets Renata di Rossi (Tim Marron). Through the course of the play the contrasts of Italian and American morality and sensibilities come to play, creating internal and external conflicts for Leona and the other Americans, and most definitely getting in the way of Leona hearing a waltz – her symbolic love language.
Although the musical doesn’t have the flow or noteworthy standards that the creators are known for, throughout Do I Hear A Waltz? the audience can hear trademarks of Rogers’ and Sondheim’s work. The score and lyrics representing a seeming passing of the torch from Rogers and his catalogue of iconic productions from the first half of the 20th century to Sondheim who would break new ground with his legendary musical in the years to follow. As Applause! Musicals brings its 2023 to a close, we also look forward to hearing more legendary but lesser-known musicals in concert to come in the years to come. Stay tuned for the 2024 presentations to be announced, and next up for the Applause team is the 2024 Ovation! Awards an annual community celebration of Musical Theatre in the Lower Mainland.