Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters: a new Stephen Sondheim Revue!

Book by:  Janine Gastineau and Paula Jayne Friedland
Music by:  Stephen Sondheim

Director/Choreographer:  Piper Lindsay Arpan
Venue Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe Street, Denver CO, 80202.
Running Time:  1 hours, 50 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).
Date of Performance:  Sunday, November 23, 2014 
Lana's Clocktower Cabaret (Photo Credit:
It's a very short run:  a single performance, in a tiny venue.  Runs don't get shorter than a single performance, which in this case, is unfortunate.  
If you love Sondheim, if you love musical theater, or if you just love the concept of love itself, Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters (hereafter abbreviated as LMOND), you missed a very good time.  Ask anyone in the fully packed house.  Marvelous music, beautiful voices, and compelling commentary on the current state of love created a "not to be missed" event. 
Paula Jayne Friedland, Janine Gastineau.
Created and performed by Paula Jayne Friedland and Janine Gastineau, with Eric French on the keyboards, the all Sondheim score is stitched together with Friedland and Gastineau's commentary on love, dating, marriage, breakups, and all other things love related.  
The show begins with "Fantasy #1," dealing with the probability that there's a perfect match out there for all of us.  It's a fantasy, and the backdrop duet on Who Could Be Blue/Little White House is the perfect Sondheim song to make the point:

"Who...who could be blue, knowing there's you, somewhere nearby...when anyone feels your glow, their low has to get high..."
"We'll have a little white house, with a little white fence, made of pickets, a house on a hill where nature comes in, we'll have crickets..."

The reality is never as good as the fantasy, and often it's considerably worse.  
Gastineau and Friedland cover all the relevant topics, with a beautiful, melodic Sondheim sound track.  And yes...they dare to go there.  The Sondheim classics, including Tonight from West Side Story, and Send in the Clowns, from A Little Night Music, masterpieces of music, are lovingly covered for LMOND.  No one can dispute Sondheim's genius; that his music is used in a new way for LMOND is ample proof.
Paula Jayne Friedland.
Friedland's version of Send in the Clowns was magical.  I think I saw tears in her eyes, evidence of how personal the music is to her.  The pair team up on most of the songs, and the duo is in full, beautiful harmonic balance. There Won't Be Trumpets from Anyone Can Whistle and Marry Me A Little from Company are only two of the many fabulous musical moments you'll hear in LMOND.
Musical theater is a special genre; the music is not just critical to the entertainment.  It is also a device to advance the plot.  Sondheim's music does exactly that; it entertains while moving the story along.  However, it does so much more in the process.  His music stands alone in LMOND, stripped of its context, but its universality and timelessness are in full blossom.  It is perhaps a better listening experience standing alone, as the power of Sondheim's music is the entire focus.
While Sondheim's music is central to LMOND, this is not just a musical revue.  It's a very personal statement by Gastineau and Friedland on the subjects at hand:  love, dating, marriage, relationships, and breakups.  Just before their final tune, they will enlighten you on why love is worth all the effort.  You may be surprised by the insight and examples they have for the audience.  I was...and I was moved by that moment.  This is a special duo, with a an obvious love of Sondheim, giving their audience both entertainment and a dose of wisdom gained through sometimes painful personal experiences.  
Janine Gastineau, Paula Jayne Friedland.
If and when LMOND is back on the calendar at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret, do NOT miss Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disasters.  It's a unique and rewarding musical experience you will long remember.
Love, Marriage, and Other Natural Disaster is suitable for all ages.  However, it is a cabaret setting, and alcohol is served.
Lannie has tentative plans to bring Gastineau and Friedland back for an encore in March, 2015.  You can get details when they are available at the Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret website.
Links to music in this review do not include any performances from LMOND.  The links are to samples of Sondheim's music done by other performers.  
Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret is located on the 16th Street Mall at the corner of 16th and Arapahoe.  On street parking is sparse.  While you might find a nearby meter, it's best to look for a surface lot or garage.  We parked at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, a 3 block walk to the the Cabaret.  Cost:  $12.00.  We probably could have done better, but it's covered parking and we had driven through a fair amount of snow south of Castle Rock.  I didn't want to scrape windows before heading home.

Lannie's recommends the Lawrence Street Garage Parking (between 15th & 16th Street on Lawrence on your RIGHT).

Directions: Take Speer Blvd. to Lawrence Street.  Head downtown.  Go 2 blocks, once you cross over 15th Street there is a parking garage entrance on the right hand side. This is underground parking.  Take the elevator to the lobby, exit onto the 16th Street Mall. The D&F Clock Tower is across the mall.  Safe, covered, convenient.

Pre or post show dining suggestion:  
Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, 1001 16th Street Mall.  I think this is the original location for the now sprawling Rock Bottom empire, and it's still the best.  When I worked in downtown Denver (2003-2009), RB was a frequent and favorite watering hole.  We stopped there before the show (it's only a block from Lannie's), and it's still as I remembered:  good food AND good beer.
We were going to order a pizza; half veggie and half pepperoni.  Don't do that.  They won't split ingredients on a pizza.  Bummer.  Roxie had the roasted veggie pizza; I had the Tillamook (cheddar) bacon burger.  We were both happy with our choices.
Photo Credits:  Janine Gastineau,

Creative Team:

Director/Choreographer:  Piper Lindsay Arpan

Keyboards:  Eric French


Janine Gastineau

Paula Jayne Friedland

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