Can it work? Can you lift songs out of dozens of Stephen Schwartz’s musicals, put them together and create a brand-new Schwartz musical? Can you juxtapose songs from “Godspell,” “Wicked,” “Pippin,” “Working” and tie them together cohesively into a memory loaded romance? The answer is decidedly “yes.” What’s old is new again in ACT’s production of the Stephen Schwartz musical “Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook.”
This is being described as an original movie musical and not a live-streamed presentation of a staged theater production. The storyline focuses on Sue who is in the attic taking down a suitcase. She’s planning on leaving her husband of 20-plus years. Coming home early, he surprises her and joins her in the attic. That’s when a storage box of old snapshots falls to the floor. Hence the title. As they look at the photos, they recall their lives from childhood to marriage and parenting. Now the magic is gone and doesn’t seem to be coming around again any time soon. Since this is a movie musical and isn’t really a live stage venue, it’s not up for an actual review. However, there’s so much to like about this show. It’s impossible not to give it the praise it deserves.
Here’s how it works. Three women and three men make up the cast as Sue and Dan; young children Danny and Susie, and young adults Daniel and Susan. As Sue and Dan examine the photos, they see their younger selves. The method works. What also works so well here is that all of the songs that were used from Schwartz’s other musicals fall into place here as if they were meant to be in this particular musical. Granted the lyrics have been tweaked here and there to fit the characters, but theatergoers will recognize them. It’s refreshing to hear these numbers so beautifully presented in this new context. Songs such as “Extraordinary” from “Pippin” and “Fathers and Sons” from “Working” and so many other songs straight from the Schwartz songbook delight again and again. Happily this is not like a jukebox musical. Songs are not forced into the story whether they work or not.
Considering the isolation being experienced because of COVID-19, this is a great show for married couples working and staying at home together. It’s nostalgic in a good way and is bound to be emotionally moving.
The cast is terrific. Mariand Torres delivers powerful solos as does Ryan Barker. The vocals are beautifully rendered by Monica Ramirez and John Cardoza, and Olivia Hernandez and Michael McCory Rose. The variety of music lifts the story from being heavy while treating the audience with rhythmic styles from Rock’n’Roll to Gospel.
Some things like the lighting could be worked on. Even uplifting scenes are a little too dark. Sue’s continual whining nearly makes her an unlikable protagonist. The only time she seems genuinely happy is when she is pregnant and feels that “Spark of Creation” blazing.
However, overall, this is a winning production. Call it a movie musical; a streamed-on-demand video or a near-theatrical event. Ultimately what you have here is outstanding entertainment. It’s already quite wonderful in this new medium. Hopefully, it will take to the live stage when we’re all vaccinated.
Music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz with book by David Stern. It is directed with a good balance of heightened drama and humor by Daniel C. Levine. Sara Brians choreographs the piece with emphasis on liveliness and Bryan Perri’s music supervision is top notch.
“Snapshots” will be available for streaming on-demand through Feb. 28. Visit actofct.org for more information and purchasing tickets. All ticket holders will have 48 hours to watch this exciting new movie musical as many times as they like. Tickets are available starting at $20.
Joanne Greco Rochman is a founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle and a long-time member of the American Theatre Critics Association.