From May 11 to 15, New York City Center’s Encores! series presented a concert staging of Do I Hear A Waltz? by Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim. The cast featured Melissa Errico as Leona Hamish, Richard Troxell as Renato De Rossi, joined by Claybourne Elder, Karen Ziemba and Sarah Stiles. Here are some excerpts of reviews of the production, which was directed by Evan Cabnet; Rob Berman was the music director:
Though Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim are arguably the two greatest writers of American musical theater, their one collaboration — Do I Hear a Waltz? — was a fizzle. Some of the reasons are all too evident in the equally fizzly Encores! production, which is erratic and mild in a way that suggests the show’s history of overcompromise. … The two men were temperamentally unsuited … More than that, they brought clashing ideologies to the table. Rodgers was wedded to a form of musical storytelling that Sondheim, in just a few years, would shatter with shows like Company and Follies. Approaching Arthur Laurents’s story for Do I Hear a Waltz? from opposite sides of an aesthetic divide, the best they could achieve was a stalemate. … Many shows that look on paper like they shouldn’t work have nevertheless been brought to glory by terrific stagings. Do I Hear a Waltz? is not one of those; it’s the opposite. The conflicts and compromises that leave their marks on its material are subtractive, not additive, making it very difficult to pull off. — Jesse Green, New York Magazine
The rarely seen show has many qualities that make it deserving of another look. … There are some gorgeous ballads, including “Someone Like You” and “Take the Moment,” beautifully sung by veteran opera singer [Richard] Troxell, as well as the joyous title song. But there are also such sardonically funny numbers as “This Week’s Americans,” “What Do We Do? We Fly?” and “No Understand.” None of it registers as among Rodgers’ or Sondheim’s best work, but even their second-tier material is superior to almost everyone else’s. … At first, the gorgeous [Melissa] Errico seems an unlikely choice for the role of a woman unable to find love, but the actress delivers an emotionally complex, haunting performance. The rest of the ensemble is equally fine: Troxell displays a rugged sexiness and swoony voice as the determined seducer; [Karen] Ziemba is amusing as the trenchant innkeeper … and Sarah Stiles nearly steals the show with her deadpan comic turn as the English-challenged pensione employee whose deathly slow march to a ringing telephone is a comic highlight. … It’s easy to see why Do I Hear a Waltz? failed originally and why it probably couldn’t sustain a commercial run now. But as always, one must be grateful to Encores! for providing the opportunity to reassess this flawed gem. — Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
In its current, beautifully assembled Encores! incarnation, directed by Evan Cabnet, Waltz still comes across as a show about the pursuit of passion that has little passionate urgency itself. As it charts the bumpy course of Leona’s summer love affair, the show feels as anxiously ambivalent as its heroine. Its odds of ever being reborn as a commercial Broadway success are slight. … But [Encores!] inestimable value lies in its presentation of shows we might otherwise never see — and of talented performers stretching muscles they rarely have a chance to use. I can’t say that this Waltz ever thrilled me. But I was fascinated by every second of it, and by the unresolved conflict of talents it embodies. — Ben Brantley, The New York Times
Although the Encores! semistaged production doesn’t hide shaky spots — how could it? — and is a bit dry and underwhelming, the show is a fascinating, seldom-seen curio. There are some terrific songs, especially for the male lead, plus surprisingly and laudably grown-up themes like morality and infidelity. … Rodgers’ melodies have typical sweep and bounce. Sondheim’s lyrics boast signature wit and acid. The songs capture the dynamics of curdling couples and unhappy relationships. — Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
CHRISTA SKILES is the associate director of marketing for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.