At a Library Near You?
The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia was published in April 2021. It’s been wonderful to hear from Sondheim enthusiasts who have acquired a personal copy and found it both useful and entertaining. But it’s an expensive volume, so I’m glad to see libraries including it in their collections. A young friend who’s a student at a small liberal arts college in Ohio sent me this photo of a display of books recently added to its shelves – including the Encyclopedia. If you frequent a university, college or public library, you might check to see whether a copy is available. If not, please alert the reference librarian that this resource would be welcomed by fans of musical theater as well as students pursuing careers in theater. You might share my website with them.
I contributed a chapter to another recent volume, Fifty Key Stage Musicals, edited by Robert W. Schneider and Shannon Agnew and published by Routledge. My essay takes a look at some of the innovations in the art form that were first used in Sondheim’s Company. Robert and I recently recorded a conversation that you can listen to via the Broadway Podcast Network, where he offers conversations with each of his contributors.
In early May in London, producer Cameron Mackintosh presented Sondheim’s Old Friends, a glorious memorial concert featuring 41 songs by an illustrious cast of 38 that included Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Imelda Staunton and more. The benefit for the Stephen Sondheim Foundation was presented at London’s Sondheim Theatre (and live-streamed to an overflow audience at the Prince Edward Theatre) Here’s a link to the full report by WhatsOnStage; and here’s a review from The Guardian.
And if you care to hear some remarks by Sondheim himself (introduced by Liza Minnelli), check out this clip from Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall, a 1992 benefit concert conducted by Paul Gemignani. It winds up with a lovely rendition of the choral “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George, introduced by Bernadette Peters and sung with emotional intensity by the Carnegie Hall Chorus.
If you have questions or comments about The Sondheim Encyclopedia, please send them my way!
One year, 1,000 copies!
This week I’m celebrating the first anniversary of the publication of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. Since April 2021 Sondheim fans have purchased more than 1,000 copies. I’m very grateful, and I hope you’re among them. But if not, I want to remind you that copies can be ordered for yourself (or for a friend who loves musical theater) at a significant discount via my website. Look for the coupon code at the top of the landing page, and then proceed to Rowman & Littlefield’s website. The coupon reduces the volume’s $135 list price by 30 percent, but the offer only good through the end of April 2022. A note: Several Encyclopedia entries have been updated to reflect Sondheim’s passing on Nov. 26, 2021.
I continue my podcast conversations with Stuart Brown, producer of Sounds of Broadway, a streaming radio station offering 24/7 programming of music from the Off-Broadway, Broadway and London stages. This month the fifth episode of “The Complete Stephen Sondheim” focuses on A Little Night Music. You can listen by checking out the On Broadway Podcast. In addition to our hour-long discussion of the show, you’ll hear some of the glorious melodies from the original cast recording: “Now/Soon/Later,” “Liaisons,” “A Weekend in the Country,” and — of course, “Send in the Clowns.”
Neil Patrick Harris has stepped into the role of Into the Woods’ Baker (replacing Christian Borle) in New York City Center’s Encores! production, set for May 4-15. Also in the cast are Heather Headley as the Witch, Sara Bareilles as the Baker’s Wife, Denée Benton as Cinderella, Gavin Creel as the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince, and Annie Golden as Cinderella’s Mother, Grandmother and the Giant’s Wife. Interestingly, Golden originated the role of “Squeaky” Fromme in the first production of Assassins at Playwrights Horizons in 1991.
March 22 would have been Stephen Sondheim’s 92nd birthday. Across the U.S. there were dozens of tribute events. It was my pleasure to attend one a few blocks from my home in downtown Cincinnati at the historic Mercantile Library (founded in 1835). It featured students from the renowned musical theater program at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. The performance of 18 Sondheim songs was live-streamed, and a video is now available. It’s shot from a single fixed camera, and there’s nothing fancy about the two-hour recording (fast-forward to the 17-minute point where the performance begins), but the young singers are very talented. The program was assembled by pianist Ian Axness.
Thanks for your ongoing interest in the works of Stephen Sondheim!
Speaking of Sondheim…
I hope you’ve taken the time to tune in to Sounds of Broadway, the online radio station that presents show tunes around the clock. Every month I join host Stuart Brown for our podcast, “The Complete Stephen Sondheim.” Our most recent conversation was about Pacific Overtures. I hope you’ll give it a listen.
I’m deeply indebted to musical theater expert Bill Rudman for producing a four, hour-long programs for SiriusXM in 2021 during which we talked about Sondheim and listened to 41 songs from his many shows. If you missed those programs last April/May or late in 2021 after Sondheim passed away, you’ll find them now uploaded part of Footlight Parade: Sounds of the American Musical on the Public Radio Exchange. Here are links to each program: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
Back in February, writer D.T. Max authored an in-depth essay for The New Yorker, “Stephen Sondheim’s Lesson for Every Artist,” based on several conversations they had over the last five years of Sondheim’s life. They discussed ideas for shows Sondheim had abandoned, details of his writing process, and the musical he was working on based on films by Luis Buñuel. It’s well worth reading.
If you’re in Chicago this spring, you should circle Monday, May 23, 7pm for Chicago Sings Stephen Sondheim presented by Porchlight Music Theatre at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.) It’s the live return of the popular “Chicago Sings” fundraising concert performed by an array of performers representing the who’s-who of the Windy City’s music theater and cabaret favorites. Tickets and more information.
The TV game show Jeopardy recently featured “Remembering Stephen Sondheim” as a category for contestants to respond with questions. Here’s a link if you want to play along, although I suspect you will know most of the answers. But if you need to look something up, please be reminded that THE STEPHEN SONDHEIM ENCYCLOPEDIA is a great resource. Through the end of April, you can use the coupon code on my website, www.RickPenderWrites.com, for a 30% discount. If you already have your copy, perhaps you’ll share this link with a friend who’s a Sondheim fan.
Have a question about Sondheim? Send it my way!
– Rick Pender