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.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *