The first show I ever saw at Signature Theatre was their 2016 production of Titanic. Today, that production remains one of my top theatre experiences ever. So, when I found out that Passion (a favorite musical in our home) was to be put on by Signature Theatre I jumped at the chance to see it.
My husband and I have watched the 1994 filmed stage production of Passion more times than I can remember. We fell in love with the characters, the music, and the story.
Having only seen the filmed stage production I knew we were in for a treat to see Passion performed live.
While reading the program I was surprised to find out that Signature Theater was one of the very first regional theaters to put on Passion after it premiered on Broadway. That production was directed by Eric Schaffer and received rave reviews.
This 2018 production is directed by Associate Artistic Director of Signature, Matthew Gardiner.
Mr. Gardiner staged this production in an alley configuration which at first threw me. Passion with the audience on two sides, how odd. However, I soon found that it works–beautifully.
The musical is set in Italy in the 1860’s. Giorgio, an army captain in love with a woman named Clara is transferred to a dreary military outpost. Here he meets Fosca, who is the ill cousin of his commanding officer, Colonel Ricci. Fosca quickly becomes obsessed with handsome Giorgio and his career and relationship with Clara are put in jeopardy. The show tackles the subjects of desire, madness, obsession, and passion.
The design was minimal and intimate. This worked especially well in the multiple letter scenes by allowing the actors to show the separation and distance by performing from opposite ends of the space. Two balconies at either end of the stage offered visual variety and compelling stage pictures. Some might find the alley configuration distracting, as half the audience faces each other the entire play, but in the few moments when I noticed the audience in front of me I enjoyed seeing their reactions to the dramatic action; it ultimately heightened rather than detracted from my experience.
The costumes designed by Robert Perdziola are stunning. I especially loved the gorgeous negligee and colorful dresses Clara wore throughout the production. These add a bit of color to an otherwise dreary world.
The entire cast provided well-rounded performances. The standout of the cast for me was definitely Natascia Diaz (Fosca) who not only possesses the voice to tackle one of Sondheim’s most difficult roles but the acting chops as well. I found Ms. Diaz’s take on ‘Loving You’ mesmerizingly honest and particularly memorable. Steffanie Leigh carries her weight as Clara and gives an interesting depth to this rather stagnant Milan socialite. Claybourne Elder’s voice is perfect for the role of Giorgio but his acting in certain moments lacked
Passion as a whole is beautifully done and Sondheim’s beautiful, romantic score is sung the way it should be. Seeing Passion live is a joy that I think everyone should experience. The beautiful story and score
Performances run August 14 through September 23, 2018
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