If you peek into a “Sondheim on Sondheim” rehearsal, you will find students singing, others dancing and music playing—in other words, a typical Bowdoin evening rehearsal, but with one key difference. The man observing, guiding and giving pointers is not a member of Bowdoin’s Department of Theater and Dance. Instead, this show is directed by Edward Reichert, a guest director from the University of Southern Maine.

Reichert received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, and his resume includes many Off Broadway plays and musicals. He has also worked professionally at Maine State Music Theatre and many others.

Davis Robinson, a professor of theater, was instrumental in bringing Reichert to campus. 
“I have watched him work with students, and I like his rapport,” said Robinson. “He was very encouraging, even in auditions, helping [students] find notes, helping them work.”

Robinson and Reichert struck up a conversation through going to see shows at each other’s schools and transformed that conversation into a working relationship.

Robinson and Reichert began planning this show last fall. The department’s show, “Sondheim on Sondheim”, worked on many levels.

“I wasn’t really interested in doing a big, splashy, old-fashioned traditional book musical,” said Reichert. “Because [Robinson] knows I’m quite a Sondheim fan—I was a guest for when Sondheim came to Bowdoin two or three years ago—he pretty much had me hooked. It’s been a very enlightening and positive rehearsal process so far.”

The show, according to Reichert, is great for the college campus because it is educational.
“It really tells you how Sondheim thinks, creatively,” said Reichert. “It’s not just a chronological show; it’s really about how you create a piece of musical theater and why you write a song and how it changes over time. It’s thrilling to teach [students] and expose them to so much of this amazing history.”

Coming from a background other than Bowdoin, Reichert’s directing experience has been surprising for him at times.

“It’s a nice opportunity for [Reichert] to work with students who are a little different because they’re not musical theater majors, so they come at it from a slightly different perspective,” said Robinson. 

The students benefit from working with someone who really knows the musical theater world. 
“It’s a great experience for students to work with someone who has done tons of musicals and whose life is musicals,” said Robinson. “He’s worked with so many people that he knows how to help someone find their strong voice and sell a song.”

That being said, scheduling has been one major challenge. In a typical musical theater program, rehearsals are part of the major itself, and people often show up for rehearsal four or five nights a week. At Bowdoin, students go to rehearsals on top of their schedules.

“There’s so many multi-tasking commitments, it’s complicated,” said Robinson, “A lot of these students are squeezing [the musical] in around every other extracurricular activity.”
That being said, Reichert finds the varied interests of the students to be a wonderful component to the show. 

“I love the students. Their interests and their courses of study are so varied, it makes them more interesting performers,” said Reichert, “I am so impressed with how talented and how bright and how smart these eleven performers are. It’s one thing just to have a fair amount of talent or ability to do something, but when you’re nice and you’re bright...it just helps everything. It’s refreshing...they’re producing a nice environment for art.”