Broadway is a Little More Quiet as it Mourns The Passing of Stephen Sondheim
The first time I learned of Stephen Sondheim was when I was taken to see Company, then Follies, then A Little Night Music and I fell in love. A friend presented me with the album Sondheim: A Musical Tribute. I absorbed that album with a flourish. I was taken to see a rehearsal of the new play Twigs and memorized the incidental song. It was written by Sondheim.
I have always equated Sondheim as the innovator of a new form of musical theater, one that hooked me in an instant and grasped me forever into its world.
Stephen Sondheim was honored with an Academy Award, 8 Tony Awards, and 8 Grammy Awards. He also received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with George (1985, shared with James Lapine) and was honored with the Kennedy Center Honors, Lifetime Achievement (1993). In November 2015, Sondheim was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in a ceremony at the White House as well as many more accolades.
Sondheim founded the Young Playwrights Inc. in 1981 to introduce young people to writing for the theatre, and is the organization’s executive vice-president. The Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center in Fairfield, Iowa, opened in December 2007 and gave back to so many.
Sondheim was introduced professionally to the theatrical world at the age of twenty-five, when he was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to write the lyrics for West Side Story (1957). After his initial success on Broadway as a lyricist, he asked friend Burt Shevelove if he had an idea for a show. Shevelove suggested doing some of Plautus’s plays as a musical, and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum was on its way to creation.
Forum was interrupted when Sondheim accepted an invitation to write the lyrics to Jule Styne’s music for Gypsy (1959). After the triumph of that show, Forum was finally completed (1962) and became the first produced musical for which Sondheim wrote both words and music.
Next the experimental Anyone Can Whistle (1964), which lasted only nine performances but quickly became a cult favorite.
Do I Hear A Waltz? (1965), Sondheim again wrote the lyrics to Richard Rodgers’s music. It was his last lyric only show.
Working closely with producer-director Harold Prince, Sondheim, turned out the scores for Company (1970), Follies (1971) and A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) and Merrily We Roll Along (1981).
With James Lapine Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987) and Passion (1994).
Off Broadway Assassins opened off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on December 18, 1990. The show eventually received a Broadway production in 2004.
Saturday Night was shelved until a 1997 production in London. The following year, its score was recorded and a revised version, with two new songs, ran off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in 2000.
During the late 1990s, Sondheim brought in Wise Guys, renamed Bounce in 2003, it was produced at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in a production directed by Harold Prince, his first collaboration with Sondheim since 1981. Bounce never reached Broadway, a revised version opened off-Broadway as Road Show at the Public Theater on October 28, 2008.
Sondheim on Sondheim, was produced at Studio 54 by the Roundabout Theatre Company starring Barbara Cook, Vanessa L. Williams, Tom Wopat, Norm Lewis and Leslie Kritzer.
With Wynton Marsalis A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair, was presented at an Encores! concert on November 13–17, 2013 at New York City Center. The concert featured Bernadette Peters, Jeremy Jordan, Norm Lewis, Cyrille Aimée, four dancers.
An avid fan of games, in 1968 and 1969 Sondheim published a series of Cryptic crossword puzzles in New York magazine. The Last of Sheila, was an intricate whodunit written with longtime friend Anthony Perkins. The 1973 film, featured Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, James Mason, James Coburn and Richard Benjamin. Sondheim and Perkins then went on to try to collaborate together again two more times, but the projects were ultimately unrealized.
Sondheim tried playwriting one more time, collaborating with Company librettist George Furth on Getting Away with Murder in 1996, but the unsuccessful Broadway production closed after 29 previews and 17 performances.
His compositions are included a number of film scores, including the 1961 “West Side Story”. Among them a set of songs written for Warren Beatty’s 1990 film version of Dick Tracy. One of Sondheim’s songs for the film, “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)”, sung in the movie by Madonna, won him an Academy Award. In 2007 “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007) with Johnny Depp as the murderous barber, and Helena Bonham Carter the woman who is in love with him. “Into the Woods“, with Meryl Streep captured a new audience. Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” (2016) Lonny Price’s documentary about the original production of “Merrily We Roll Along”. And soon to be, the new “West Side Story”.
After he was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II Sondheim returned the favor, with composer-lyricist Adam Guettel (son of Mary Rodgers and grandson of Richard Rodgers), Jonathan Larson and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The music and lyrics on Broadway are now just a little less tuneful and smart.
Jessica Chastain Strips Down Bare A Doll’s House and is Luminescent
In watching Jamie Lloyd’s version of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, it feels like a scene study class. The set is stripped bare, there are no props, no costumes, no curtain, no children except their voices and no touching. On the wall is written 1879 and what was three acts is now one hour and fifty minutes, no intermission.
Jessica Chastain, is Nora who enters and sits on a wooden chair as the turntable circles about 15 minutes before the play starts. Slowly the other characters enter and sit with their backs to Nora.
The play starts as her husband Torvald (Arian Moayed), has been given a promotion at the bank where he works. At first Nora seems frivolous spending money they do not have yet for Christmas presents, for everyone but herself. She is scolded, then indulged as her husband controls her world, as do all the men around her. When Kristine (Jesmille Darkbouze), an old childhood friend returns needing a job, she makes Nora also feel like her life is trivial, until Nora confesses she secretly borrowed money years ago when Torvald was sick and has been paying it off. Torvald is about to fire Krogstad (Okieriete Onaodowan), but we find out he was who loaned Nora the money and that she forged her father’s name on the promissory note, which is a crime. If this secret gets out it will ruin the whole family.
Nora turns to her her husband’s best friend Dr. Rank (the wonderful Michael Patrick Thornton) for help. Their chemistry is undeniable, but he tells her he loves her breaking the boundries and she can not confess to her indiscretion with the signature. Dr Rank sees Nora for who she is and tells her he is about to die pushing her to the edge.
Trying her best to stop what is inevitable Nora decides to commit suicide. She is sure Torvald will give up everything due to his love for her. Instead she learns and wakes up to the truth. She has and will always be controlled by men. The pattern started with her father and when Torvald learns the truth, instead of being on her side, he berates her with hate. When Krogstad has a change of heart and decides not to blackmail the family, Torvald turns back to wanting his wife, but the truth has opened up her eyes to a world she does not and can not live it.
Chastain starts off low key and like an onion, peels down to the core. She subtly steals your heart and has you cheering for her. She is seriously one fabulous actress, with her face conveying everything. She should win the Tony for this performance. Moayed as Torvald comes off as weak and ineffectual. You never understand why Nora has given everything to this man. Onaodowan gives off villainy vibes until he shows us Krogstad pain and heart. Thornton as Dr Rank, steals nearly every scene.
The language feels too contemporary and Lloyd’s directing choices are not always effective, but Amy Herzog’s adaptation really made me feel the power of the text.
The end made me want to break out and sob. Men, still really do not see us or the small sacrifices we make or the large ones done in secret to better their lives. We love them, but we need to start loving ourselves.
A Doll’s House: Hudson Theatre, 141 West 44th Street until June 10th
Theatre News: Smash, I Need That, Good Night, Oscar, Funny Girl, This Beautiful Lady and In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical
The NBC television series Smash is coming to Broadway for the 2024-2025 season. Robert Greenblatt, Neil Meron and Steven Spielberg will produce. The musical will feature a book co-written by three-time Tony Award nominee Rick Elice and Tony winner Bob Martin. Tony and Grammy winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Some Like It Hot). The team earned three Emmy nominations for their songs from the “Smash” series will pen the score, which will feature numbers from the TV show.
Five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman (New York, New York) will direct and Tony nominee and Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse will choreograph.
The series was created by Theresa Rebeck and Spielberg, launch the series. Spielberg is also one of the co-producers of Good Night, Oscar, which begins performances at the Belasco Theatre on April 7.
Official dates, theater, creative team and casting for the “Smash” stage musical will be announced at a later date.
Speaking of the Pulitzer Prize finalist playwright Theresa Rebeck, Danny DeVito and Lucy DeVito are set to star in her new play I Need That at the Roundabout. The new comedy will be directed by Tony nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel which will open at the American Airlines Theatre in October. The cast will also include Ray Anthony Thomas. … Also newly announced for Roundabout’s new Broadway season is a spring 2024 revival of Samm-Art Williams’ 1980 Tony-nominated play “Home.” Tony winner Kenny Leon will direct
Speaking of Good Night, Oscar, Doug Wright’s play was named finalist for 2023 new play award by The American Theatre Critics Association. The other six finalists for the 2023 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award include: Born With Teeth by Liz Duffy Adams, the ripple, the wave that carried me home by Christina Anderson, Sally & Tom by Suzan-Lori Parks, Spay by Madison Fiedler and
Swing State by Rebecca Gilman.
Paolo Montalban and Anne L. Nathan are joining Lea Michele in Funny Girl as Florenz Ziegfield and Mrs. Strakosh. Montalban and Nathan will replace original cast members Peter Francis James and Toni DiBuono, who take their final bows on March 26th.
Elizabeth Swados’ This Beautiful Lady will play at La MaMa this May. Previews will begin May 5 for the Off-Broadway run ahead of the May 8 press opening, with performances set through May 28 in the Ellen Stewart Theatre.
In The Trenches: A Parenting Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Graham & Kristina Fuller, will receive industry readings on Friday, March 24th at 11am & 3pm at Ripley Grier Studios. The readings will be directed by Jen Wineman (Dog Man: The Musical) and will feature music direction by Rebekah Bruce (Mean Girls) and arrangements by Dan Graeber, Graham & Kristina Fuller.
The cast of In The Trenches features Amanda Jane Cooper (Wicked), Jelani Remy (The Lion King, Ain’t Too Proud), Christine Dwyer (Wicked), Caesar Samayoa (Come From Away), Max Crumm (Grease, Disaster!), and Vidushi Goyal.Join two bleary-eyed young parents as they trudge through the trenches and discover their new post-baby identities. In an evening of new-parent greatest hits, a foul-mouthed toddler zeroes in on “the most dangerous thing in the room”, tap dancing towards bleach, knives, and tide pods; a chronically-overlooked younger sibling sings the “second child blues”; a mom trio celebrates yoga pants in an R&B love song to the “official mom uniform”; dad discovers he’s not the “ice-cream and movie-night cool parent” but rather the “do your homework real parent” amid a kiddo sugar-crash; and mom retrieves a sticky, hair-covered pacifier from the floor of a LaGuardia bathroom while her baby screams bloody murder and her flight boards without her.
Foul Play on Broadway
Photo by Bruce Glikas/wire image
According to Page Six a serial pooper has been leaving presents in the aisle of the Shubert Theater. The last incident happened near Hillary and Chelsea Clinton during a performance of Some Like It Hot.
According to a theater staff member other presents have appeared.
I am thrilled to announce that the show has been attracting VIPs including Steven Spielberg, Martin Short, Debbie Allen, Bo Derek, Eddie Izzard, Hank Azaria, Kristin Chenoweth and more.
Some Like It Hot, has some of the best songs, choreography, direction and performances on Broadway, so I am thrilled the audiences are finally noticing.
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