A review of “Snapshots,” a musical laden with tunes by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked,” “Godspell”), some of them retooled for this tale about a married couple. At Village Theatre in Issaquah through Oct. 18.
An uneasy hybrid of revue and jukebox musical, “Snapshots” compiles material from nearly a dozen shows by Stephen Schwartz, the prolific composer behind such huge Broadway hits as “Wicked” and “Godspell.”
Conceived by Michael Scheman and David Stern, the show retrofits the numbers to meld with a new plot about a marriage on the rocks, but the framework is just as flimsy as most conventional revues.
After a 2005 inclusion in Village Theatre’s developmental program and a number of regional workshop productions, “Snapshots” opens Village’s mainstage season in a setting that’s hedged as being in “the final stages of development.”
By Stephen Schwartz and David Stern. Through Oct. 18, Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah; $36-$68 (425-392-2202 or villagetheatre.org).
The musical hasn’t evolved much in 10 years. Beleaguered wife Sue (Beth DeVries) is planning to leave her husband of 20 years, Dan (Hugh Hastings), when they stumble upon a box of photos in the attic. Reminiscing about the past, their memories come to life before their eyes, with four actors playing younger versions of the couple and their past acquaintances (Mallory King, Ben Wynant, Tracy McDowell and Jim DeSelm).
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On one hand, Schwartz’s music is a perfect vehicle for this questionable enterprise; despite the songs’ disparate sources, many share an emotional tenor — soul-bearing, bright-eyed, unashamedly sentimental — which provides some much-needed continuity. On the other hand, jamming these 26 numbers together does a disservice to both show and songs. The narrative must be smoothed into a generic paste to accommodate them all, so many classic Schwartz tunes get short shrift.
Schwartz has rewritten a significant portion of new lyrics for the show, transforming “All for the Best” from “Godspell” into a ditty about finding the right person, and altering “The Spark of Creation” from “Children of Eden” into an ode to motherhood.
Some songs, like the lovely “Lion Tamer” from “The Magic Show,” are mostly unchanged and work well even removed from their original context, while many more are chopped up and rearranged in a series of forgettable medleys. (“Wicked” fans: You’re only going to hear a few scattered bars of “Popular.”)
When it’s not being hamstrung by some muddy harmonies, the Village production is generally polished and pleasant. DeVries and Hastings are engaging performers with clear, striking vocals, but can’t make these cardboard-cutout versions of human beings interesting. She nags; he’s emotionally distant. She gave up on her dreams of being an artist; he works too much at his sales job. Both feel like selections from the first page of a catalog of stock fictional characters.
Director Daniel Goldstein maintains the book’s aiming-to-please manner, carefully underlining the contrasts between Sue and Dan’s present and past selves. During the climactic “Code of Silence,” each takes several deliberate steps away from the other as their emotional distance widens. That’s about as subtle as the show gets.
Not to worry though — this is one of those manufactured conflicts that can be easily wiped away with a song.