Playing Sondheim is both an achievement and a challenge for the singers, said Gatzke. Famous for composing music full of dissonance – which sounds out of tune, but just at the same time with its conflicting harmonies – the genre is somewhat of a class by itself, with which many singers have a love-hate relationship.
“His music, so often… it’s not pleasant, delicate, pretty and fluffy melodies. They’re very complex and very detailed, and there’s a lot of dissonance, and a lot of really beautiful and weird harmonies, sometimes, ”said Gatzke. “It’s just amazing how he intersects all of his music in his shows. I would love to get into his mind and sort of stay there for 10 minutes. That would be great.”
The upcoming performance is almost entirely sung for two hours, with some 35 songs performed by eight singers and two narrators. The pieces are diverse, with trios, solos and ensemble songs from several Sondheim musicals.
The musical was chosen in part for its lightness and energy, Holt said. After a long year and a half of overcoming a pandemic, which had an emotional, mental and physical impact on many people, the Commerce Street Theater felt that a production like this was necessary. The cast was also smaller, with only 10 people, so the size was more ideal to work with during a pandemic as well.
The realization was a rewarding learning experience for Gatzke.