ON THE SCENE: Randy Newman is a Sly Devil in Encores! One-Night-Only Faust

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02 Jul 2014

Randy Newman
Randy Newman
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Encores! Off Center featured a one-night-only concert presentation of Randy Newman's Faust July 1 as part of its summer lineup. Playbill.com was there.

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Randy Newman's Faust — which hit a dead end following mid-1990s tryouts in San Diego and Chicago — was revamped and somewhat modernized for a one-night-only concert performance as part of the City Center Encores! Off-Center series. Playing the devil Lucifer — "Luci," as they call him — was Randy Newman himself.

The Oscar/Emmy/Grammy-winning songwriter entered (the stage was simply set with platforms for the twelve musicians and stool-seating for the fifteen-person choir, plus a cloudbank that flew in and out) dressed in black with a grand cape (lined in bright red) and a pair of red horns. Newman sat at the piano and sang, narrated and played his way through the evening. He has a grand presence; gruff, blustering and cuddly, and he proceeds to charm his way through two acts in two hours.

The plot is borrowed from Goethe. The Devil (Newman) makes a pact with the Lord (Isaiah Johnson), struggling over the soul of Notre Dame student Henry Faust (Tony Vincent). Faust is an angry young rocker, with little interest in the bargain or, seemingly, anything. The Lord — with the participation of not-so-heavenly Angel Rick (Michael Cerveris) — entices Faust with musical comedy heroine-type Margaret (Laura Osnes). Margaret brings along a musical comedy-type friend Martha (Vonda Shepard), who suddenly steps from the crowd in the second act with two surefire show-stoppers of the sort you might expect Sherie Rene Scott to sing.



A quick Internet search reveals that Scott did, indeed, play the role in the two tryouts; Faust was played by her husband Kurt Deutsch. (The two later married and founded the invaluable Sh-K-Boom/Ghostlight labels, responsible for numerous cast recordings.) Michael Greif's productions at the La Jolla Playhouse (Sept. 1995) and the Goodman Theatre (Sept. 1996) — with his landmark production of Rent falling in between — starred David Garrison as the Devil and Ken Page as the Lord. Simultaneously with the initial production, Newman released a concept album version of the score, featuring a star-studded cast (including James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and Newman as The Devil.)

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