Annaleigh Ashford & Josh Groban, starring in Sweeney Todd on Broadway
Photos by Franz Szony
Lots of news this month about the Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd starring Josh Groban. Listen to his April 10 interview on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. It’s your chance to hear Groban and Annaleigh Ashford in the roles of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett, singing a snatch of “A Little Priest” as well as some other songs featuring Groban. For a bit more fun, here’s a link to the sassy Ashford talking with Seth Meyers in a “Late Night” segment about blood and other things in Sweeney Todd. Just before this production’s New York opening, NPR also aired a group interview with Groban and three other baritones who played Sweeney in the past: George Hearn (who replaced Len Cariou, the originator of the role and appears on the DVD), Michael Cerveris (who played the demon barber in John Doyle’s 2005 Broadway revival) and Norm Lewis (who starred in the recent off-Broadway Barrow Street revival, imagined in a tiny pie shop). To check out critical response to this production, here’s a roundup.
Sondheim and John Weidman’s Pacific Overtures is not so frequently revived, not because it’s not an impressive work but because it’s a big challenge in many American cities to assemble an Asian cast. The Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has been the most frequent producer of Sondheim’s works in the U.S., and it recently took on Pacific Overtures. In late March, Weidman traveled to the theater for a conversation about the show. If you’d like to hear more discussion about this unusual show, link to this YouTube recording from 1976 of a much younger Weidman talking about the song, “Someone in a Tree.” And for more about this important number — one Sondheim often called his favorite — here’s are links to part 1 and part 2 of an “Anatomy of a Song” YouTube recording featuring the composer himself.
The Broadway transfer of the much admired off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop’s limited run of Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Maria Friedman, begins previews on September 19, 2023, at the Hudson Theatre (141 West 44th Street, tickets. The production, a New York Times “Critic’s Pick” and described by the Washington Post as “a revelatory and intoxicating revival” of the show that was deemed a 16-performance flop in 1981, is set to run for 18 weeks into January 2024. The production’s central roles continue to be performed by Jonathan Groff (Franklin Shepard), Daniel Radcliffe (Charley Kringas) and Lindsay Mendez (Mary Flynn). Also in the cast are Katie Rose Clarke (Beth Shepard), Reg Rogers (Joe Josephson) and Krystal Joy Brown (Gussie Carnegie).
As if there wasn’t enough good news about Sondheim shows in New York City, here’s a flashh that surprised many of us: Here We Are, Sondheim’s last stage musical, an adaptation of two surrealist films by Spaniard Luis Buñuel, will have an off-Broadway staging in New York later this year. The films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Exterminating Angel (1962), are both odd tales about dinner parties. (Here’s a link to a feature I published about Buñuel and this collaboration via my former Everything Sondheim website back in 2018.) A collaboration with playwright David Ives and once titled Square One, the show will be presented at The Shed’s Griffin Theater (545 West 30th Street in New York City, ). Now called Here We Are it will be staged by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantello, who directed the 2004 Broadway revival of Assassins. Square One had a workshop in 2016, but stalled for several years. Sondheim and Ives resumed work on it in 2021, but it was not finished when Sondheim died in November 2021. Specific dates in September have not been announced. Go to theshed.org for updates.
With all this going on, perhaps you are or know a Sondheim fan who would love to dig deeper via my 650-page reference volume, The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. It’s available through www.RickPenderWrites.com where there’s a link to order it directly from the publisher, Rowman and Littlefield. Use the code RLFANDF30, for a 30% discount.
Please drop me a line about Sondheim happenings that you think might be of interest to other fans. And if you have friend who is a Sondheim fan, let them know about this blog! Thanks.