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Elegies: A Song Cycle

Composer William Finn wrote 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Falsettos, A New Brain, and most recently the new musical version of Little Miss Sunshine. He began writing musical reminiscences of lost friends in response to the AIDS crisis and completed Elegies: a Song Cycle in response to the events of September 11, 2001. I saw them performed at Lincoln Center in 2003 with a cast that included Michael Rupert, Carolee Carmello, and Betty Buckley, and found the piece quite moving at the time.

Now, partly to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, O’Connell & Company is performing the song cycle at their home at ECC North with Tom Doyle, Darryl Hart, Katy Miner, Scott Nykiel, and Mary Kate O’Connell herself.

More than one prolonged lament, the songs provide often playful, sometimes soulful reminiscences of real people, and offers a celebration of love, informed by the reality that loss is part of life. Titles like “Mark’s All-Male Thanksgiving,” and “Joe Papp (who took no crap)” give a sense of the more lighthearted moments. “Infinite Joy,” and “When the Earth Stopped Turning,” are among the most arresting. Fans of Mr. Finn will hear echoes of his musicals pervading the numbers.

Under the direction and musical direction of Dale Zurbrick, the presentation is simple and elegant, as numbers are performed without gimmicks in series of cloudy sky panels by set and lighting designer David Guagliano. The singers are strong, the presentation is graceful, and the spirit of the piece is uplifting.