Charles Court Opera bring their production of Do I Hear a Waltz? to the Park Theatre in north London. Written by Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Richard Rodgers (music) in 1964, Sondheim himself questioned the show’s existence and it never enjoyed tremendous success. However, this revival is generally a strong one.
The book by Arthur Laurents tells the story of Leona, an American secretary on holiday in Venice, who falls in love with the owner of a curio shop. It sounds conventional, but there are enough unexpected moments and interesting twists to hold attention. Rebecca Seale is superb as Leona, a likeable yet flawed young woman enjoying the new experiences surrounding her. I was less keen on Philip Lee as her lover: he was the least ‘Italian’ Venetian I have ever come across on stage or screen and I felt the two had little chemistry. The supporting cast were very good though, particularly Rosie Strobel as the owner of Leona’s B&B, and assorted tourists provided comic relief.
Richard Rodgers (of ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’ fame) provides some beautiful tunes, but the highlight of the piece is Sondheim’s input – his lyrics are sharp and witty, particularly in the wonderful song about the perils of air travel which sounds like it could have been written today.
It’s not the best Sondheim or Rodgers or Laurents you’ll ever see, but it’s certainly worth a look.