Stephen Sondheim is an American composer and lyricist known for his immense contributions to musical theatre for over 50 years.
He is the winner of an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Laurence Olivier Award. His most famous works include (as composer and lyricist) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy.
This theatrical genius, responsible for the Tony Award winning plays "War Horse," "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" and the most recent revival of "Angels in America," knew that this 1970 musical comedy about a man about to turn 35 and having all his coupled friends trying to marry him off would seem dated in 2018 when she conceived of this version in London, in which the gender of the characters are reversed. With the help of another genius, composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim who rejiggered his wise and witty lyrics, Elliott has made this old show by bookwriter George Furth seem spanking new as if we had never seen it before even though this is the fourth New York revival. [more]
As always in a John Doyle presentation, the production is professional, polished and accomplished. This time around he has not made changes to the script or the score except to include the climactic song “Something Just Broke” which was not in the original Off Broadway production but was added to the first London version in 1992 and has been used ever since. While the actors give excellent performances, the revival lacks emotion and heart which is strange considering the number of characters who die or who are wounded in the course of the show. It is as though they (and we) are numbed by much depiction of killing. Is there a way to fix this in a show which repeatedly has its cast shooting at presidents of the United States, in this case only in a fun house setting? [more]
Van Hove's energetic cast is too often lost among the video images which is sad because they are a wonderfully scrappy group of actor/dancer/singers who give their all. (I’m told that this is less of an issue in the higher reaches of the theatre due to the difference in perspective.) To be sure, there are wonderful moments where the groups move about in cityscapes that constantly change around them, but these are countered by long scenes during which the actors appear to be lilliputian figures whose singing and emoting get lost in the confusion of giant faces. [more]
Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s direction melded the performers with expert physical placement sprinkled with occasional dance bits that made for lively presentation. The event’s visual verve was amplified by the imaginative projection design by Dan Scully. In addition to illustrative images there were projections of Sondheim’s handwritten and typed lyrics as well as stylized photographic views. These were all continually shown on the auditorium’s back wall, beautifully complementing the performers and the speakers. [more]
Usually considered one of Sondheim’s lesser musicals, albeit with one of his best scores--and needless to say, that’s saying a lot--this production provides a heft and a story that are sorely lacking in previous versions. There is no denying or gainsaying its power to impress, as each and every song comes through with its capacity to build characters and tell stories. If the stories are less than satisfying in earlier productions, that’s due more to bookwriter George Furth (adapting the original play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart) than to Sondheim or to his other collaborators, each of who has provided an impeccable contribution to the current enterprise. [more]
The New York Theatre Ballet performed the lovely, all-female, “Come to Me, Bend to Me” from that musical, a sweet look at pre-wedding preparations in the ancient village of Brigadoon. That troupe began with two excerpts from de Mille’s groundbreaking “Dream Ballet” from "Oklahoma!" and her “Hornpipe” from another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "Carousel" (1945), its fishermen bouncing about while on the hunt for female companionship. [more]
The first 26 chapters are the original text of "Contradictions" with each followed by “”Reflections,” where Prince variously corrects, expands upon and ruminates about that portion. After concluding with the tribulations of the 1974 revival of "Candide," the next 19 chapters are new additions that detail all that came after. There’s also a comprehensive appendix of facts about all of his shows and an index. [more]
Each was asked about their first audition. Marilyn D’Honau couldn’t remember, although she clearly made an impression on Robbins who subsequently used her in "Gypsy." Tony Mordente, just an acting hopeful, was working in a Times Square Howard Johnson’s when he heard that WSS was being assembled and he showed up with no professional experience and managed to impress the powers-that-be. Some flew in from the Coast or Las Vegas or were known by Robbins before hand, like Ronnie Lee who was in "Peter Pan." All were reminded by Robbins before the opening night that they were “handpicked.” [more]
The playing space designed by Doyle is a narrow white runway with a stool at one end and at the other, an archway created by continuing the flooring into the air on which Japanese writing appears as on a banner. The audience sits in stadium-type seating on either side of the playing space. Eschewing pageantry, the production puts the cast in very bland outfits of black, grey, white, blue or beige (costumes by Ann Hould-Ward), adding fabric or robes when absolutely necessary. The lighting by Jane Cox occasionally bathes the stage in either red or blue mood lights. [more]
Linda Lavin, padded and badly bewigged, comes across more like a Jewish yenta than the victim of the vagaries of Eastern European warfare. She has only one song, “Easily Assimilated,” a silly attempt at seduction, which is a shame. This character had several numbers in the original, including one that actually referred to why she is “missing the half of my backside.” Lavin is a star, but is ill-used here. [more]
“The Little Drummer Boy” was an emotionally shattering highlight of Richard Holbrook: "Always December." Mr. Holbrook’s performance of this perennial was revelatory due to the intensity he brought to it. This was performed in tandem with the equally moving “Some Children See Him.” [more]
I’ve always liked Andrew Keenan-Bolger's work. He was a memorable child actor, playing leads on Broadway in shows like "Beauty and the Beast" and "Seussical," when he was around 13 or 14 years old. I admired his sunny, open-hearted work then. And he's even more successful today (at age 31) as an adult--not every child actor can make such a transition. He conveys the same sort of buoyant spirit on stage now as he did when I first saw him in those shows he did so well as a youth.. (His whole family is talented. He and his sisters, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Maggie Keenan-Bolger, are all making their contributions to the arts.) [more]
The primary reason I wrote this book was for people to appreciate exactly what it is to be a producer. He or she has to be the captain of the ship in every respect – they start with the idea and then get the rights to a book. Then you have to find the writers, the composers, and the lyricists, and put them together and guide them, and then you have to raise the money, figure out where the show is going to be presented, do the marketing and advertising - - you have to really do it all. You need to have a producer who has the objectivity and the passion to see the show through from beginning to end. Someone has to make sure it all comes together and that’s the role of a producer. It becomes even more essential once a show opens – you have to continue with the marketing and advertising and work hard to keep it fresh. It’s a very complicated and difficult job and you need the knowledge and experience to have a chance at success -- especially if you want to do it on Broadway. [more]
Above the stage on a screen throughout the presentation were projected photographs illustrating Rodgers’ career and appropriate backdrops for the locales of the shows. Brief insightful video interviews with Rodgers’ daughter Linda, lyricists Sheldon Harnick and Martin Charnin, playwright Sherman Yellen, historian Ken Bloom, Rodgers grandson Peter Melnick, record producer Thomas Z. Shepard, and the actor John Cullum were shown. A 1974 Public Television interview conducted by James Day showed the aged Rodgers ravaged by strokes and throat cancer but still vital and articulate. [more]
Ms. Errico gives a smashing musical theater performance. Her gutsy broad that’s tough on the outside and unraveling on the inside characterization is quite captivating. Her singing of several of the wan attempts at showstoppers exhibits her charismatic range. It’s definitely a case of a performer elevating weak material with their talents. Her commitment is as intense here as if she were playing either Sally or Phyllis from Follies particularly for the boozy ode to self pity, “Everyone Loves Leona.” [more]
As always, Holbrook was dapper in his signature tux and brought real class and style to the stage. His rich, tenor voice was soothing to the ears and stirred the packed audience, mostly an older crowd, into reminiscing with him about the old days when these songs were written. Their enthusiasm was undeniable, underscored by their continuous applause. Holbrook's vocal instrument is not particularly robust but, what he lacks in volume, he makes up for in passion; a great interpreter, he really feels the music and sings with a lot of heart just like the title of his cabaret. This, along with his great stage presence, connects him with his audience and they find themselves being reeled in.
Director Mindy Cooper’s very well executed transitions between the show’s 27 numbers, the personable Scott Siegel’s erudite remarks, and the variety of gifted performers who participated made "Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1916-1940" a brisk and very enjoyable event. [more]
Why another stage production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine "Into the Woods" while the film version is currently playing? The Roundabout Theatre Company is hosting the ingenious, clever and witty Fiasco Theater production (previously seen at the McCarter Theatre Center in 2014) of this iconic musical using fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm which is the best musical revival in town. This is what every revival should be – a reinvention of the original material making it new enough that it wipes out memories of the original. If you did not see Fiasco’s six-character version of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline which had an extended run Off Broadway in 2011, then you are in for a delightfully surprising treat. [more]
Hearing these Sondheim classic songs well performed and seeing them vibrantly staged was reason enough for this concert to be considered a success. That it also paid tribute to the artistry of Harold Prince with its revelatory documentary presentation made it an even more glorious event. [more]
"Allegro" was inspired by Thornton Wilder's Our Town which also uses no scenery and uses the actors as a chorus commenting on the action. Aside from the actors all playing stringed instruments when the show begins (as well as other instruments in the course of the show such as piano, clarinets, oboe, etc.) in Mary-Mitchell Campbell's folksy new orchestrations, they remain on stage throughout as they both narrate and give advice to its hero Joseph Taylor, Jr. [more]
The York is celebrating their 20th season and this is their 100th show. It is fitting that these milestones are being commemorated by showcasing the work of one of the preeminent figures of musical theater. Their small-scale version of Saturday Night is exuberant, very entertaining and revelatory. This is all chiefly due to the talented cast of 15, largely composed of energetic youthful performers and several excellent mature character actors. Everyone effortlessly appears to be Brooklyn denizens and all bring comedic talent and depth to their roles. That they rehearsed for less than a week before giving their first performance makes their accomplishments even more considerable. Great credit must go to casting director Geoff Josselson for assembling them. [more]
"For many of us this was our golden age," said creator, writer and host Scott Siegel in his introduction that for many present devotees of the art form that this evening's presentation was very meaningful as this was the era in which they came of age seeing many of these shows in their original productions and they are quite appreciative of them. [more]
The creative forces with whom he has worked are a who’s who of the Broadway musical. They include Steve Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Cy Coleman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Claude-Michel Schoenberg, Neil Simon, Hal Prince, Tommy Tune and Cameron Mackintosh. And performers such as Mary Martin, Betty Grable, Barbara Streisand, Katherine Hepburn, Elaine Stritch, Jennifer Holliday, Diana Rigg, Eartha Kitt, Patti Lupone, Glenn Close, Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett, just to name a few. [more]
Raul Esparza, the dynamic young actor who made great impressions in such not so great shows as Taboo and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , plays Robert, whose tainted attitudes about attachment and commitment to women, and specifically to his three concurrent girl friends, appear the direct result of observing his friends' disintegrating relationships. Esparza delivers the insecurities of his character with a brio and confidence that also drives his two big songs "Marry Me a Little" (not in the original show, but restored here as it was in the earlier revival) and "Being Alive." Pivotal as he is, Robert often stands at the outside of his friends' lives as they are revealed in a series of skittish skits. [more]
Doyle's innovative approach dispenses with set changes while placing the action in a black and white arena that suggests a dreary psychiatric ward. The story begins with a terrified young man in a straitjacket surrounded by people in white robes. As he sings the musical's opening words "Attend the tale of Sweeny Todd," we are summoned into his disturbing world. There is no turning back. The effect was as if someone had snapped a whip and commanded our attention.
Weidman's book is especially clever in its anecdotal cohesiveness, and with additional material credited to Hugh Wheeler, will probably be thought of as more vindicated than it was initially. Yet one wonders if the sadness we feel as we watch the Japanese lose their will to resist American determination is actually compounded by the new ending that brings Japan into the modern age and includes an image of the bombing of Hiroshima. [more]