Side by Side Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
MCG Theatre/Highly Strung Productions
Gemma Hawkins (musical director), Catherine Clark (piano)
Bella Barlow, Carly Buchanan, Emma Ralston, James Irving and Matthew Ronchetti
Running time

Sondheim 'Masterclass' gets top performance marks! Side by Side was created as a showcase for the work of lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim to help convince a sceptical British public that they were in the presence of a musical theatre giant.

Students of musical theatre could make a long essay, even a dissertation, out of whether he is in a class of his own or just falls short of theatrical greatness. Having seen Company and A Little Night Music recently and Sweeney Todd not so long ago, I can admire the cleverness of the lyrics and enjoy what might be described as his showstoppers, "Broadway Baby" and "Send in the Clowns" to name but two.

However, some of the songs have to be listened to intently to get the benefit of the intelligence of the lyrics rather than the melody. The young company were spot on with the music and got over a nervous start with the narration to deliver an entertaining 80 minutes.

The highlight for me was the excerpt from West Side Story where Sondheim's lyrics together with Leonard Bernstein's music was brilliantly performed by Emma Ralston and Bella Barlow. Carly Buchanan completed a trio of female stars with great delivery of some of the more difficult songs .

James Irving seems very much at home with Sondheim's material and copes well with some of the most challenging songs. Matthew Ronchetti is at his best with "Send in the Clowns," extracting the emotion from every word. The show was well received by a sizeable audience for a midday show and this cast of performers and musicians make a compelling case in favour of Sondheim's contribution to musical theatre.

Show Times: Runs to August 25th at 12.05pm

Ticket Prices: £10 (£8) and concessions £6