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Until that moment when the second act slides irrevocably into theater that is good for you, the London company honors the yearning, questing strains of a crescendo-heavy score that's savvy enough to lower the volume (the plaintive "New Music," for instance, rendingly led here by Dave Willetts as the pioneering Father) until the anthems ("Make Them Hear You") take over.
At once intimate and epic, "Sophie's Choice" places its romantic trio--a menage completed by Sophie and Nathan's young neighbor, the Southern writer Stingo (sweetly acted and sung by the Canadian Gordon Gietz)--against the backdrop of the defining event of the 20th century, all the while brooding on the mysteries of love and death and man and God, with a few apposite (and, in musical terms, rendingly set) Emily Dickinson poems thrown in to thicken an already heady stew.
(Best of their section: Gordon's ceaselessly haunting "Sycamore Trees," rendingly delivered by the star.) Perhaps surprisingly, not least because "Merrily We Roll Along" arrives at the Donmar in December, Buckley does only one Sondheim: that show's "Not a Day Goes By," which provides her opening gambit.
Lest the play devolve into a two-hander, Haig introduces various subplots, the most affecting of which involves a shy Scottish transvestite, "Louise" (rendingly played by the sweet-faced Daniel Crowder).