I suspect you watched the 75th Tony Awards on June 12. Stephen Sondheim was reflected in so many ways, especially in a loving tribute anchored by Bernadette Peters. Here’s a link to video snippets from that evening (scroll down for specifics of the segment about Sondheim) and here’s a link to a nice summary of what was said.
Marianne Elliott’s gender-switched revival of Company was center stage all evening, winning five Tonys, more than any other musical for the 2021-2022 season. It was named the Best Revival. Elliott, who’s from London, was chosen Best Director of a Musical. (She previously won directing Tonys for War Horse in 2011 and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in 2015.) Also recognized for their performances in Company were Matt Doyle as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance as Jamie and singing “Getting Married Today,” and Patti LuPone as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her interpretation of Joanne, putting her own mark on “The Ladies Who Lunch.” Bunny Christie’s scenic design for Company was honored, too. Nominations also went to Jennifer Simard who played Sarah (Best Featured Actress in a Musical), David Cullen (Best Orchestrations), Neil Austin (Best Lighting Design of a Musical), and Ian Dickinson (Best Sound Design of a Musical). The Drama Desks’ recognition on May 31 honored Company as Best Revival, as well as for Matt Doyle, Patti LuPone, and Marianne Elliott.
Alas, Company announced its imminent Broadway closing, set for July 31. A touring production is planned for 2023-2024. If you didn’t make it to New York City to see the production, planned for 2020, but postponed by the global pandemic until late 2021, I suggest that you seek out “Keeping Company with Sondheim. ” It aired PBS’s Great Performances on May 27, 2022 (the 29th episode of the series’ 49th season, available to public TV supporters via the PBS Passport app). It’s a 90-minute look at the reimagined gender-swapped production as it returned to Broadway during the pandemic. It featured interviews with Tony and Grammy-winning cast members Katrina Lenk, Patti LuPone, Marianne Elliott, and of course Sondheim himself, who attended a preview of the production just a few days before his death in November 2021.
MORE TONY AWARD NOTES: On June 12, Angela Lansbury was also recognized with the Tony’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She was unable to attend, but her recognition was accepted by her Sweeney Todd costar, Len Cariou. Across her legendary career Lansbury received Tonys for Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), Gypsy (1975), and Sweeney Todd (1979). She also had memorable appearances in two other Sondheim shows: as the corrupt “mayoress” in Anyone Can Whistle (1962) and as Madame Armfeldt in the 2010 revival of A Little Night Music. Lansbury also hosted five Tony telecasts between 1968 and 1989, more than anyone else. Although she never won an Emmy for her role on television’s Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury received a record 18 nominations.
Patti LuPone’s 2022 Tony Award for her Company performance was her fourth, now including three with Sondheim credentials: She also won for playing Mrs. Lovett in John Doyle’s 2006 actor/musician revival of Sweeney Todd and for her performance as Rose in the 2008 revival of Gypsy. LuPone won her first Tony in 1980, originating the role of Eva Peron in Evita.
One final Company note: I highly recommend watching a clever parody of D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about recording the show’s original cast recording. It aired in the third season of Apple TV’s “Documentary Now!” series, titled Original Cast Album: Co-op. The 23-minute film is worth seeking out: It’s both a tribute to Pennebaker’s original with some very funny reconstructions of moments in that legendary film about the ordeal in the recording studio — through a new filter about people struggling to live together in a New York condo building.
I’ve been honored to receive some nice comments from folks who have purchased copies of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. Peter Khoury, a writer and academic at several Australian universities, sent me a congratulatory note and mentioned that he “purchased it last year and greatly admires its scope and breadth — and the effort in putting it together.” He recently published an article exploring the history of Sondheim productions in Australia, where Sondheim’s works are popular and frequently produced.
I also found a lovely recommendation online by Ted Naron, a retired advertising executive and expert about musical theater. He explained that he’d been hesitant to purchase the Encyclopedia for two reasons, first because it’s expensive — $135. But perhaps more importantly, he wrote, “I know so much about Sondheim already. I’ve read just about everything there is to read, and most ‘little known facts’ are facts I’ve encountered several times over. But I took the plunge, and when the book arrived, I started browsing and — within five minutes — I had learned two things I didn’t know before.” Naron chose not to mention what they were, supposing that others might have been a step ahead. “But,” he added, “if I discovered things I didn’t know, you will too. … When I saw that the entry on Do I Hear a Waltz? is a solid eight pages long, any ideas in my head of the book not being worth the price flew out the window.”
Maybe you’d like to learn more about Sondheim or his shows? If so, please go to my website, www.RickPenderWrites.com, for a link to purchase you own copy from my publisher, Rowman & Littlefield. It’s also a fine gift to anyone who’s a musical theater fan, a reference volume that will be used often.