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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