Sondheim & Masquerade Theatre: A Winning, Unappreciated Combination

On Friday night Phillip Duggins, the head honcho of Masquerade Theatre and the director of that night's Sunday in the Park with George, walked out to do the (sadly) obligatory pre-show fund-raising pitch.

The show had already gotten glowing reviews from the previous weekend's performance, but the intimate Zilkha Hall at Hobby Center was relatively sparsely populated.

Masquerade, Duggins told the audience, is one of the rare Houston theater companies who regularly do Sondheim. With a shrug as he looked out at the empty seats, he added, "and I guess you can tell why."

If he then sat back and watched the show, he saw -- like the audience -- a sterling production. It wasn't perfect -- the big Act Two moments didn't all land as powerfully as they can -- but the actors were terrific, the costumes were great, there was an eight-piece orchestra as opposed to an overworked piano; it was moving and entertaining.

And again, there were plenty of empty seats.

We've ranted before about the lack of Sondheim appreciation in town, so we're not out to beat a dead horse. Especially since it won't change the situation.

But Masquerade has consistently put on top-notch musical productions, and has stubbornly insisted on including "difficult" Sondheim shows. So they deserve some love, and since they're doing the entertaining Urinetown next, it's easy enough to give support.

And let's cross our fingers that they do Follies next season. Is that asking too much?

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