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NY1 Theater Review: "Passion"

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Off-Broadway's Classic Stage Company is presenting a revival of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical "Passion," a work which won the Best Musical Tony back in 1994. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.

"Passion" has the dubious distinction of having had the shortest run of all the Tony-winning Best Musicals. One reason might have to do with the intimate nature of the story. Broadway just seemed too big a venue.

Now, for the first time since its original run 19 years ago, the show is back on the boards -- this time off-Broadway -- courtesy of the Classic Stage Company. While the smaller stage is a much better fit for this deeply felt tale of romance, the perfect chemistry's still missing.

Stephen Sondheim's score is indeed hauntingly lush and James Lapine's story of love and obsession is most compelling. But the musical's success requires a delicate and precise mix of acting talent, directorial finesse and emotional pull.

The talent is most certainly there, in abundance. But the difficult narrative, detailing a love triangle between an officer, his beautiful mistress and a sickly, unattractive woman, falls into the trap of seeming too literal in this production or rather, not feverish enough.

Giorgio is a handsome and sensitive officer in 19th-century Italy deeply in love with his mistress Clara. They must separate for a while as he's transferred to a military outpost where he meets Fosca, the cousin of his commanding officer. She is at first a curiosity and then repellent as she becomes obsessively attracted to him. Eventually, a relationship blossoms and it is that dynamic that forms the heart of this unlikely love story.

Under John Doyle's stark direction, the pacing is sluggish and passion largely absent. That might be a fatal blow if not for the richness of the performances. And if Ryan Silverman lacks the requisite charisma, he compensates with commanding vocals.

But it's the women -- Melissa Errico and Judy Kuhn -- who stir up our strongest emotions. Pairing those gorgeous voices with Sondheim's rapturous score is a true match made in heaven.

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