NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK FOR $55
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.