'Sondheim' brings local star back to the Center

Tom Titus

When the musical revue "Side by Side by Sondheim" arrives at the

Orange County Performing Arts Center Sept. 7 for a three-week

engagement, it will feature a singer-actress whose home base is

Laguna Beach and who has become one of composer Stephen Sondheim's

most celebrated performance artists.

Teri Ralston, who launched her career in a 1965 production of "The

Fantasticks" at the old Laguna Playhouse and has called Laguna home

for many years, will headline the musical revue. Also featured are

Davis Gaines, second only to Michael Crawford in longevity as the

"Phantom of the Opera," and Bets Malone, replacing the

eight-months-pregnant Tami Tappan Damiano.

"We're having a great time doing the show," Ralston said last

month, midway through an engagement in Ventura. "It's so wonderful

doing all this great music."

Indeed, Ralston is one of the performers who made Sondheim's music

great in the first place. She headlined the original Broadway

productions of "Company" and "A Little Night Music." Her other

Sondheim credits include "Follies," "Gypsy," "Sunday in the Park With

George" and a directorial stint on "Into the Woods."

Ralston's local credits include a production of "I'm Getting My

Act Together and Taking It on the Road" in Newport Beach, for which

she earned this column's Woman of the Year honors, and headlined a

staging of "Quilters" at the Laguna Playhouse. She's also appeared at

South Coast Repertory -- for the world premiere of "Prelude to a

Kiss" -- where she is on the teaching staff.

Her date with the center has been booked for two years.

"I had gotten the rights to produce 'Side by Side' a couple years

ago, and we were going to do it in Laguna, but we did 'Moving On'

instead," she said. "In talking to Joan Simmons, she got the idea to

book it at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. She presented it

to them, and they wanted to do it, and they booked it something like

two years in advance.

"It seemed like a very long time in advance, but then as it

happens, time does fly. Joan then presented it to the Rubicon

[Theatre Company], and they decided to do it, for which I am

exceedingly grateful.

"I had wanted to do the show sort of like 'Love Letters,' where it

could have a good, long run and bring in guest narrators. They

decided to do that, and we have guest narrators coming in each week.

Carol Cook will be with us in Orange County."

The show also is scheduled to play a one-nighter at Pepperdine

University Oct. 2 and later will check into the Pasadena Playhouse.

"My hope is that we can then continue to have a run at another

theater," Ralston said. "It's a joy to do."

The center engagement will be presented in the more intimate

Founders Hall with performances Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.

and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. until Sept. 19.

Tickets are $46 and may be purchased at (714) 556-2787.

* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot. His reviews

appear Fridays.

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