Sondheim Blog

A Bonanza of Sondheim

MY FINAL REMINDER: I’ll be signing copies of the paperback edition of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia ($55) on Monday evening, Sept. 25, 7:30pm at the Drama Book Shop (266 West 39th St. in Manhattan). If you’re nearby, please RSVP and stop by. I’ll talk about some of my experiences interacting with Sondheim during my years with The Sondheim Review and the Encyclopedia.


David Ives, Joe Mantello and Stephen Sondheim (at his Connecticut home)
Photo by Daniel Dorsa/New York Times

This fall offers a bonanza of Sondheim performances in New York City and beyond. If you haven’t read Frank Rich’s late August feature published online on Vulture about how playwright David Ives and director Joe Mantello worked with Sondheim to create the new musical, Here We Are, here’s a link. It’s an in-depth transcript of conversations the trio had, with Rich, the one-time New York Times theater critic (and longtime Sondheim admirer), occasionally interceding with questions. Their collaboration began in 2009 when Sondheim called Ives to discuss some ideas. As Mantello says, “Being summoned to his house is terrifying.” Initially the conversation was not about Luis Buñuel’s films, but another idea Sondheim had, a complicated musical called All Together Now that dug into facets of a moment between two people meeting for the first time. They abandoned that one in 2013 when they learned of another new show with an overlapping premise. Then they settled on exploring Buñuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Exterminating Angel. Rich’s feature is long and detailed — and completely fascinating. Their conversation evolved into Here We Are which begins previews in New York City on Sept. 28, at The Shed’s Griffin Theatre, a new venue at 545 W 30th St. The official opening of the limited run is Oct. 10; it’s announced closing date is Jan. 7, 2024.

The Broadway return of Merrily We Roll Along is under way with previews at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre (141 W 44th St.). Jonathan Groff, Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Radcliffe are picking up where they left off back in January with a limited, sold-out Off-Broadway run at the New York Theatre Workshop. The three actors appear to be just about as tightly as the three characters they are playing, according to Ben Brantley’s feature, “3 Actors, 1 Unshakable Bond,” in the Sept. 12 New York Times. “What promises to be the most passionate love story of the new Broadway season,” Brantley wrote, “is a tale of three people. Like many triangles, this one involved jealousy, guilt, misunderstanding, recrimination and betrayal.” But he points out a big difference: “Sex is not part of the equation for its leading lovers.”

Have you made it to Broadway to see the Tony Award-winning revival production of Sweeney Todd starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford? If that hasn’t been possible, here’s another option: You can now get your own original cast recording of their show. Warner Music Groups Arts Music and Reprise Records released it on Sept. 8. For the first time since 1980, you can experience Sondheim’s award-winning score as it was performed in 1979 — with Jonathan Tunick’s original, epic 26-player orchestration. Here’s a link to stream or buy it.

Marianne Elliott’s Tony Award-winning revival production of Company will soon begin its 25-stop national tour, starting in October and continuing through August of 2024. Here’s a list with dates. Bobbie, the name of the gender-switched leading character, will be played by Britney Colman, who understudied the role on Broadway; the key part of Joanne will be filled by Judy McLane, a past Drama Desk award nominee. They will be joined by Kathryn Allison as Sarah, Matt Bittner as David, Ali Louis Bourzgui as Paul, Derrick Davis as Larry, Javier Ignacio as Peter, James Earl Jones II as Harry, Marina Kondo as Susan, Matt Rodin as Jamie and Emma Stratton as Jenny. Jacob Dickey, Tyler Hardwick and David Socolar play Andy, PJ, and Theo, the male versions of Robert’s girlfriends from Company’s original production.

Bernadette Peters is a legendary Broadway star. So it’s kind of startling that she’s only just now making her West End debut in London in Sondheim’s Old Friends, a celebration of his music devised by British producer and director Cameron Mackintosh. She’ll star with Lea Salonga and a bevy of British theater luminaries including Janie Dee, Damian Humbley and Joanna Riding.  Peters told The Guardian, “Steve [Sondheim] loved England so much. He told me that any opportunity he had, he’d visit. So to make my debut here singing his music is very touching and important to me.” Read more of her interview.


Paperback Sondheim Encyclopedia Now Available!

As previously announced, the paperback edition of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia can now be ordered from Rowman and Littlefield. I’ve received emails from several Sondheim aficionados, pleased by the more affordable price — $55! (Even better: Use this discount code, RLFANDF30, you’ll get a 30% discount off that). Also, if you’re in or near New York City, I’ll be doing a book signing at the Drama Book Shop (266 W. 39th St.) on Monday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. If you’re available, please stop by. (And my apologies for scheduling on Yom Kippur — the bookstore assigned this date to me months ago, and I did not notice the conflict until recently, with my travel plans already in place.)

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Despite Sondheim’s passing in 2021, his shows continue to have significant audience appeal. Here’s a link to a feature from American Theatre magazine featuring the directors of his first posthumous Broadway revivals — Lear deBessonet (Into the Woods), Maria Friedman (Merrily We Roll Along) and Tommy Kail (Sweeney Todd). I like this observation from deBessonet: “It’s magnificent and delicious, because there is so much there for you. And it actually is all there in the writing. We all know what it is to direct a piece where it isn’t all in the writing, and you’re doing a lot of work to fill in holes and compensate. It’s like Shakespeare, where digging deeper and deeper into the text reveals the piece more clearly. So the muchness is very welcome.” Ah, yes — the “muchness” of Sondheim.

Some more news: The show Sondheim was creating with Playwright David Ives, Here We Are, based on a pair of avant-garde films by director Luis Buñuel, will get a fall production in New York City in The Shed’s Griffin Theater at Hudson Yards (545 W. 30th St, between 10th and 11th avenues), beginning previews on Sept. 28 and opening a 15-week run on Oct. 22. The cast will include David Hyde Pierce and Bobby Cannavale; Joe Mantello is the director. In the New York Post, theater journalist Johnny Oleksinski reported in August that the production of the on-again, off-again show feels incomplete to several insiders — just six new songs in the first act, almost none in the second. Despite steep ticket prices, it seems a sure bet that Sondheim fans and other curiosity seekers will flock to see it. I’ll share more news once it’s available.

If you prefer to take a wait-and-see attitude about Here We Are, you might want to consider acquiring some remastered cast recordings of Company, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Assassins. Sony Masterworks Broadway released these, likely Sondheim’s final recording project before his death in 2021. The new releases offer an immersive audio experience using Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos, setting listeners inside a 360° spherical sound field, amplifying every note and instrument. The recordings were co-produced by Didier C. Deutsch and Peter E. Jones, archivist for the Sondheim Foundation.

I suspect you’ve heard Sondheim’s very funny “The Boy From …”, a parody of the bossa nova number “The Girl from Ipanema.” He wrote it with Mary Rodgers in 1966 for an off-Broadway revue, The Mad Show, where Linda Lavin performed it. It ends with the disappointed singer lamenting that the “boy” she has lusted after is moving to Wales where he’ll live in Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch, a real town with what is likely the longest place name in the world. If you’re intrigued, you should check out this YouTube video about the origin of the Welsh town’s extravagant name.

In addition to the paperback Encyclopedia, your Sondheim bookshelf might be enhanced by adding a copy of Sondheim: His Life, His Shows, His Legacy by the late Stephen M. Sunderman, released by Running Press Book Publishers on Sept. 19 ($35). Brimming with first-person tributes from lots of Broadway performers and complemented by more than 200 color and black-and-white images, Sunderman’s book offers a multidimensional look at Sondheim’s shows and career. It’s described as “a lavish, highly engrossing documentation of the dynamic force who reshaped twentieth-century American musical history.” It’s also available as a nine-hour audiobook from Audible, narrated by actor James Patrick Cronin.

I hope to see you at my book signing in New York City on Sept. 25. Now that it’s more reasonably priced, I also invite you to consider it for a holiday gift to another musical theater lover.

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An Affordable Paperback Sondheim Encyclopedia … and a signing at the Drama Book Shop

New York City’s Drama Book Shop

A couple of news items about The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. A paperback edition, priced at $55, is now available from my publisher Rowman and Littlefield. That’s a significant reduction from the hardback edition published in 2021 for $135. You can order either edition (as well as the eBook) at Here’s an insider tip: I can offer you a “Friends & Family” 30% discount, which reduces the price of the paperback to $38.50. Just apply the code RLFANDF30 when you place your order.

With the release of the encyclopedia as a paperback, I’m heading to New York City for a signing event at The Drama Book Shop (266 W. 39th Street) on Monday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. I hope a lot of Sondheim fans from New York and nearby will stop by! Check out the evite for more details. I’ll have a few words to say about working with Sondheim when I edited The Sondheim Review. I’d love to lots of Sondheim admirers in person!

Just a few days after my book signing, Here We Are will begin its world premiere run in New York City at The Shed’s Griffin Theater, located at 545 W. 30th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. The official opening night of Sondheim’s final musical, with a book by playwright David Ives and directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello, will have a limited engagement through January 7, 2024. The show was inspired by two surrealistic films by Luis Buñuel, The Exterminating Angel (1962) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). Here We Are has two acts with music and lyrics by Sondheim. The cast includes François Battiste, Tracie Bennett, Bobby Cannavale, Micaela Diamond, Amber Gray, Jin Ha, Rachel Bay Jones, Denis O’Hare, Steven Pasquale, David Hyde Pierce, and Jeremy Shamos.

Deaf Broadway, which produced a signed version of Into the Woods in September 2021, recently returned to Lincoln Center for a one-night, semi-staged performance of Sondheim and Furth’s Company on August 2 at Damrosch Park. They projected the film of the New York Philharmonic 2011 production while eleven actors simultaneously performed the roles using American Sign Language. For a taste of this ingenious evening directed by James Caverly check out this web post. Deaf Broadway was founded on Sondheim’s 90th birthday in 2020.

The East Coast isn’t the only place where Sondheim’s music still thrills audiences. Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times wrote a glowing and detailed review of the July 30 Sondheim tribute at the Hollywood Bowl. Performers included a team of Broadway all-stars — Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster, Norm Lewis, Sierra Boggess, Skylar Astin and Brian Stokes Mitchell — performed “Everybody Rise! A Sondheim Celebration.”

Sondheim’s shows continue to be produced around the world. Here’s a review by Bill Stephens of the Canberra Critics Circle of a production of Sweeney Todd at the Sydney Opera House in July. And this article from Spain reports that Antonio Banderas and his theater company plan to stage Gypsy at the Caixbank Soho Theatre in Málaga in Andalusia, Spain, in October 2024. This will be Banderas’s company’s fourth musical production; he staged Company in 2022. (Other musicals presented there were A Chorus Line and Godspell.)

The American Theater Hall of Fame in New York City was founded in 1972. A half-century later it continues to honor actors, playwrights, songwriters, designers, directors, and producers who have had careers in American theater for at least 25 years and at least five major Broadway production credits. Selections are made annually by the more than 250 voting members of the Theater Hall of Fame and members of the American Theatre Critics Association. (I belong to the latter group, so I get to vote in the annual election.) Of course, Sondheim and many of his collaborators who I wrote about in The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia have been inducted. Their ranks will be expanded in November by eight more professionals, including librettist John Weidman (Pacific Overtures, Assassins, Road Show) and Mandy Patinkin (who originated the role of Georges Seurat in Sunday in the Park with George). The other 2023 inductees include actors Bebe Neuwirth, Judd Hirsch, Laurie Metcalf, director JoAnne Akalaitis, composer Maury Yeston and playwright Amiri Baraka. Their names will be added to the plaques hung in the grand staircase and escalator at Broadway’s Gershwin Theatre.

Finally, for some fun later this month, how about Forbidden Sondheim: Merrily We Stole a Song? It’s a new special edition of Forbidden Broadway on Wednesday, August 23, and Thursday, August 24, at New York City’s cabaret nightclub Don’t Tell Mama (343 W. 46th St.) It will be an evening of hilarious parody lyrics, directed by Forbidden Broadway’s longtime mastermind, Gerard Alessandrini. Performers include Chris Collins-Pisano, Dayna Jarae Dantzler, Jenny Lee Stern and Michael West, with special guest Christine Pedi, a Forbidden Broadway veteran and currently a program host on SiriusXM’s “On Broadway” channel. Fred Barton is the pianist and musical director. Reservations:

Thanks for reading my monthly blog post. I you have Sondheim news you’d like to share, please drop me an email:

Book Signing in NYC on Sept. 25!


Pardon me for a moment of self-promotion: On Monday, Sept. 25, at 7:30pm, I have a book signing at the Drama Book Shop (266 W. 39th St. in New York City). The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia comes out in a new paperback edition in September, and this is your chance to get an autographed copy. It’s free to attend, but to gain admission, you need to purchase a copy of the book from the shop. The good news is that this version is just $55, considerably less expensive than the hardbound edition released in April 2021 (priced at $135). If you’re in New York City or nearby, please drop by! Perhaps you know a Sondheim fan who would like a copy but found its previous price a tad steep. Consider this edition as a perfect — and affordable — gift opportunity. It also contains a few updates, especially mention of Sondheim’s passing in November 2021.

If you’re not living in New York City these days and you want to buy an extra-special home, perhaps you’ll consider a 5,700-foot townhouse at 246 E. 49th Street … the longtime home of Sondheim himself, located in the Turtle Bay Gardens where his neighbors over the years included movie star Katharine Hepburn, New Yorker writer E. B. White, and venerable editor Robert Gottlieb. It’s not for everyone, of course, priced at $7 million. Whether you’re in the market or not, you might want to give a look to the place via this real estate video. Purchased in 1960 with some residuals from the film version of Gypsy, Sondheim called it home for the rest of his life. Seven bedrooms, three-and-a- half baths, it has a 30-foot terrace overlooking a garden area with a fountain, multiple fireplaces, stained glass, and many more wonderful details. (Of course, Sondheim’s books, games and other décor are not part of the deal).

If I might brag for one more moment, please check out the photo above of a bookcase close to Sondheim’s desk in his Manhattan home. In the red circle are boxes of The Sondheim Review, the magazine I edited from 2004 to 2015. I had many memorable — often spirited — exchanges with him about reviews and features we published.

Although his former home is for sale, Sondheim’s presence can still be felt in New York City. The Tony-nominated revival of Sweeney Todd continues its run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (205 W. 46th St.), and the production of Merrily We Roll Along that evolved from an Encores! production to an off-Broadway hit starts Broadway previews at Hudson Theatre (141 W. 44th St) on Sept. 19.

The beat goes on elsewhere. The tour of the recent, much-loved Broadway revival of Into the Woods is presently onstage in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre. It continues through July 30. Here’s a review by Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times. It will be venturing to other American cities soon.

To demonstrate Sondheim’s international appeal, I will mention two productions. In London, a limited West End run of Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends is set for the Gielgud Theatre, Sept. 16 to Jan. 6, 2024. This is an extended version of the tribute concert that Cameron Mackintosh presented on May 3, 2022. Bernadette Peters will again star, joined by another Broadway regular, Lea Salonga, and an array of top-notch British musical theater stars. Here’s the trailer.

The second production is a rendition of Sweeney Todd in Australia. It comes from the Victorian Opera and New Zealand Opera to the Sydney Opera House (through Aug. 27). The cast includes Ben Mingay (above), who has played Sweeney since 2019, and Antoinette Halloran, reprising her performance as Mrs. Lovett. Here’s what Ebony Bott, head of contemporary performance at the Sydney Opera House, had to say: “Sweeney Todd is such a compelling and complex work of the musical theatre canon, and exceptional performances are required of everyone on-stage. Seeing this impeccable group of performers come together in the rehearsal room has been a genuine delight. Our audiences are in for a true thrill this month when we welcome this excellent cast at the Sydney Opera House.”

For another set of insights regarding Sondheim’s impact on musicals, give a listen to Episode 111 of David Armstrong’s Broadway Nation: “Careful the Spell You Cast: How Stephen Sondheim Extended the Range of the American Musical” with author Ben Francis. It’s a very informative 36-minute conversation.

You can pre-order your paperback copy of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia right now — again at $55 —directly from Rowman and Littlefield. Here’s the link.

God, That’s Good!

Sweeney Todd is held by many Sondheim fans to be his greatest work. There’s plenty of evidence of that these days with the current Broadway production, which earned eight Tony nominations. As Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford were nominees in the lead acting categories, and the production was a candidate for best revival. No winners this time around, but it was a remarkable year with six more nominations for the revival of Into the Woods (which closed in January).

A lot of attention was paid to the lush accompaniment for this Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd — using Jonathan Tunick’s original orchestration for 26 musicians, including strings, woodwinds, brass, harp and percussion. Conducted by Tony Award winner (for Hamilton) Alex Lacamoire, this could be a sign that some shows have realized they can attract audiences with big orchestras. Here’s a link to Jeff Lunden’s National Public Radio feature that suggests this could be a trend. For a taste of Jeff Groban singing “Epiphany” with this gorgeous accompaniment, use this link for a sample from the upcoming cast recording, .

Good news for Sweeney Todd fans across the U.S. — the current Broadway production will spawn a national tour in 2025. Casting, dates and cities haven’t been announced yet. But let’s hope that the success of the Broadway production might mean more substantial orchestral accompaniment for the tour.

Sondheim fans in the Twin Cities are surely heading to the renowned Guthrie Theatre for its production of Into the Woods that opened recently and will run until August 13. Staged by Sarna Lapine (James Lapine’s niece), it features Broadway veteran Lisa Howard as the Witch. Lapine is building her Sondheim resume: She recently staged Sweeney Todd for for Arlington, Virginia’s Signature Theatre, one of the most prolific producers of shows by Sondheim.

If you’re seeking a straightforward overview of Sondheim’s shows, I recommend this lecture by Sean Hartley, the director of the musical theater division of the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Over the course of nearly two hours, he performs songs and talks about each show.

Did you watch the delightful musical theater send-up, Schmigadoon!, on Apple TV? The first season about a young couple who wander into a magical town where everyone bursts into songs at the drop of a straw hat. Its six episodes — performed by casts of numerous Broadway stars — have lots of fun with parodies of songs inspired by Rodgers & Hammerstein and others and from the Golden Age of Broadway by Chris Willis.

 He’s also the composer who put together the numbers for the second season, Schmicago!, which has lots to enjoy with echoes of Sondheim fans, since its six episodes draw upon on shows from the late 1960s and 1970s — especially Sweeney Todd, with Alan Cummings and Kristen Chenoweth doing their own renditions of characters inspired by Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. The second season also offers tunes inspired by Kander & Ebb’s Chicago, as well as Hair.

Finally, I want to share the good news that my reference book, The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia, is coming out in paperback in September at a much more affordable price ($55). It’s available for pre-order via this link.

Thanks as always for reading this monthly blog. I’m always on the lookout for news of interest to Sondheim fans! If you know someone who might like to receive these notices, please point them to

COMING SOON: The Sondheim Encyclopedia in paperback … and other news

I’m excited to share the news that The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia will be released by Rowman and Littlefield in a paperback edition in mid-September. It will still have 650 pages and all the entries found in the hardback, but instead of the $135 price tag, this version will cost $55. I hope many more Sondheim fans will be able to afford adding this extensive reference volume to their musical theater bookshelf. I’ll send ordering information (and a discount code) when it’s available.

Stephen Sondheim passed away a year-and-a-half ago, but that hasn’t diminished the theater world’s appetite for productions of his shows. There’s plenty of evidence in New York City. At the upcoming Tony Awards on June 11, productions of Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd are both nominated for recognition as the season’s best musical revivals. Into the Woods, which evolved from an Encores! concert staging into a fully (if modestly) produced production at the St. James Theatre, ran from September to January 2023. Its noteworthy cast — including Patina Miller as the Witch, Brian d’Arcy James as the Baker, Sara Bareilles as the Baker’s Wife, and Phillipa Soo as  Cinderella — made a much praised cast recording, released by Concord Theatricals/Craft Recordings last September. (Here’s a YouTube video of Bareilles recording “Moment’s in the Woods.”) Still onstage at Broadway’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre (at least until January 2024) is the Sweeney Todd revival, featuring Josh Groban as the murderous barber, and Annaleigh Ashford as Mrs. Lovett; both are Tony nominated for their performances, and the cast recording of their production was released digitally by Arts Music and Reprise Records on May 8. Here’s a link to a snippet of “The Tale of Sweeney Todd:”

New York isn’t the only place where audiences have been flocking to outstanding productions of Sondheim shows. The Pasadena Playhouse, California’s officially designated “State Theater,” has just completed a six-month festival of Sondheim shows. Artistic director Danny Feldman decided to break the usual mold of a regional theater of producing five or six shows a year. “What if we asked our community to do something longer than one night together? What if we explored an idea, a theme, a person? That’s where the Sondheim festival idea came from.” Productions during Playhouse’s 2022-2023 season included Sunday in the Park with George and a diversely cast staging of A Little Night Music. (Here’s a link to an interview with Jodi Long who played Madame Armfeldt). The Playhouse also virtual seminars about Sondheim and coordinated productions of other shows by local schools (Into the Woods) and universities (Sondheim on Sondheim at USC). Feldman’s adventurous decision surely played a part in the Pasadena Playhouse being honored with the 2023 Regional Theatre Tony Award, a recognition that’s accompanied by a $25,000 grant.

The farmhouse where young Stephen Sondheim was mentored in the craft of musical theater by Oscar Hammerstein II will become a museum dedicated to the legendary lyricist, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Miranda Family Fund.

Actor Barbara Bryne (below) must have known a lot about motherhood. She was Georges Seurat’s mom in the original production of Sunday in the Park with George in 1984 and Jack’s mother in Into the Woods’ debut in 1987. She also played Madame Armfeldt in the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration staging of A Little Night Music in 2002. Born in London, Bryne trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and then moved to Canada where she was in more than 30 productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Also a regular performer at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis (she played Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in 1999), she died on May 2, 2023, at the age of 94.

Barbara Byrne in Sunday in the Park with George

Since you are certainly someone who takes Stephen Sondheim’s work seriously, I urge you to consider signing up for a series of virtual classes, What Makes Sondheim Great (Act II Reprise). Sondheim enthusiast and scholar Gail Leondar will share her insights starting later in June and continuing into July. Each of five sessions starts with a lively presentation, full of things to listen to, watch and think about. Gail always makes time for conversation as well. Available on Tuesday nights, June 20 to July 25 (7pm ET/6pm CT/5 pm MT/4 pm PT), will be sessions digging into West Side Story, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, and Into the Woods. This is a repeat of a class Gail offered in Winter 2022. REGISTER HERE. The fee is $60, but if you’re interested and can’t afford that, Gail invites personal inquiries at “We’ll figure out something that feels comfortable to you.”

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