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A Tale of Two Cities

by Ann Morrow on October 4, 2012

Constance Lopez and Frank Leavitt as the DeFarges


The two of them created the Two of Us Productions so they could perform together. Stephen Sanborn is a director and musician, and his wife, Constance Lopez, is an actress and choreographer. Married in 1997, the couple formed their Columbia County-based theater company in 2000: “I was constantly performing, and Stephen was always performing, so we thought if we put on our own shows, we could perform together,” says Lopez. This weekend, they will again be sharing a theater for the musical A Tale of Two Cities, based on the Charles Dickens classic. Sanborn is the show’s director-conductor, and Lopez is playing the bloodthirsty Madam DeFarge.

“It’s incredibly well written, the music and the lyrics,” enthuses Lopez. “And for timing, we couldn’t have picked a better show. It’s about a people who feel their country is not their own, that a small percentage have all the resources and control everything. . . . It has expressive statements to make. I was moved to tears when I read the script.”

“We love literary stories where the music carries it along,” says Sanborn. An RPI graduate, Sanborn is also involved with the company’s lighting and sound, which he tailors to serve the storytelling. An important part of the Two of Us mission is the use of full orchestras. For Tale, a 22-piece ensemble will fulfill the songbook’s pop-opera romanticism.

Set on the streets of London and Paris during the French Revolution, Dickens’ tale of “Injustice, vengeance, and the redemptive power of love” is centered on one of the most famous doomed love triangles in English literature. Ken Kasch plays the wastrel Sydney Carton and Jeffrey Jene plays noble Charles Darnay, two men whose destinies are entwined. Tara Young plays Lucie Manette, the girl they both love, honor, and protect. Michael Rivenburg designed the sets, which range from a châteaux to the Bastille, and include ocean crossings, a mob scene, and the ever-present threat of “la guillotine.”

Asked what attracted her to the role of the pitiless revolutionary, Madame DeFarge, Lopez explains: “She is strong but conflicted, and I thought it would be interesting to see where she goes with it when she is pushed to the edge. She’s passionate in her beliefs but it burns her up.”

Sanborn and Lopez consider themselves lucky to have experienced the musical during its 2008 Broadway run, going to see it on a whim, “because I love Dickens,” says Lopez. They were both impressed and moved by show, which closed after a mere two months—a victim of the Wall Street financial meltdown.

When the rights became available, Two of Us jumped at the chance, and their production in Hudson will be the musical’s regional debut. The show’s writer and composer, Jill Santoriello, will be in attendance for the Saturday, Oct. 6, performance, and earlier on Saturday, at 3 PM, she will participate in a talkback with the public at 209 Warren St. as part of Hudson’s ArtsWalk weekend. The show’s two-weekend run will feature the debut of an original overture composed by percussionist Dan Galliher that was personally approved by Santoriello.

Pictured are Lopez and Frank Leavitt as the DeFarges, aka the original occupiers.

A Tale of Two Cities will be performed at the Hudson High School Auditorium (215 Harry Howard Ave., Hudson) tomorrow (Friday) through Sunday (Oct. 5-7) and Oct. 12-14; shows are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 3 PM. Tickets are $18, $14 students and seniors. Visit twoofusproductions.org or call 758-1648 for more info.