Sondheim News for May 2024

Thomas Floyd assembled an excellent feature for the April 6 edition of The Washington Post: “An Oral History of Mrs. Lovett, one of theater’s greatest, bloodiest roles.” He interviewed English actor Julia McKenzie, Broadway stars Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster, Lea Salonga, Bryonha Marie, Annaleigh Ashford, movie actor Helena Bonham Carter, and TV’s Christine Baranski, and obtained a delightful array of anecdotes, insights and opinions. Ashford, Tony nominated for her recent Broadway performance, said of Angela Lansbury: “I felt really connected to her because she was a true character actress, and that is what I have always dreamed of being and strive to be. The played women who are dimensional and dynamic and have been hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.” McKenzie said, “I think you have to, first of all, make a big choice as to whether you think she’s just thoroughly evil or whether you think she was coping with those terrible Victorian times when everyone was just fighting to live, really.” Follow this link to the feature which includes an array of photos video clips.

Sunday, May 5, marked the closing of the revival of Sweeney Todd that initially featured Tony Award nominees Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford. Since February 9, Aaron Tveit and Sutton Foster had played Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett. The much praised revival at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre of Merrily We Roll Along, which opened on September 23, 2023, will close on July 7, 2024. From start to finish it starred Jonathan Groff as Franklin Shepard, Daniel Radcliffe as Charley Kringas, and Lindsay Mendez as Mary Flynn. All three actors are Tony nominated (Groff for best actor, Radcliffe and Mendez for featured performances). The Merrily revival picked up four additional Tony nominations – Best Revival of a Musical, Best Director of a Musical (Maria Friedman), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Kai Harada), and Best Orchestration (for the legendary Jonathan Tunick). The 77th Annual Tony Awards will be presented at Lincoln Center in New York City on Sunday evening, June 16.

Broadway won’t be without a serious dose of Sondheim for long, with the welcome news that the London revue, Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, will be presented by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. The posthumous London tribute was initially a one-night project by producer Cameron Mackintosh in 2022. Later that year after public demand became evident, it had a 16-week West End run in London and received an Olivier Award nomination. The production’s all-star cast on Broadway will be led by Tony winners Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga who also performed in London; it’s directed by Matthew Bourne in collaboration with Julia McKenzie, an English actor and frequent Sondheim performer. Previews are set for to begin on March 25, 2025. (If you’re on the West Coast, you can catch this production in its pre-Broadway run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 8-March 9, 2025.)

Speaking of Bernadette Peters, on a recent Broadway Cruise, she had a half-hour conversation with Gordon Cox for the Broadway Podcast Network. Asked what she considered her most challenging role, she talked about Dot in Sunday in the Park with George. She especially cited the song “Color and Light,” and added that working with Mandy Patinkin, “I fell in love with that show. It just swept me away.” Cox asked her if there might be a male role that she’d undertake. Without hesitating her enthusiastic response was, “I’d play Sweeney Todd!”

Los Angeles was lucky in late March when a one-night event, A Broadway Birthday: Sondheim, Lloyd Webber and Friends commemorated the strange coincidence of Sondheim’s and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shared birthdate, March 21. Presented at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa and produced by Scott Coulter, the evening featured Betty Buckley, Kerry O’Malley, Liz Callaway, Matthew Morrison and Aaron Lazar.

Nathan Lane has been honored by Signature Theatre in Virginia with its annual Sondheim Award for 2024. This gala event on Monday evening, April 29, featured performances by notable Broadway artists including Faith Prince, Krysta Rodriguez, and James Caverly and several favorite Signature artists including Tracy Lynn Olivera, Adelina Mitchell and Awa Sal Secka. Susan Stroman, who collaborated with Lane on the 2004 production of Sondheim’s The Frogs. Stroman also staged the all-time most Tony Award-winning Broadway production, The Producers (2001), that co-starred Lane and Matthew Broderick. Lane was also a Tony Award winner as Pseudolus in the 1996 revival of Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Signature’s annual Sondheim Award Gala honors those who have contributed to the works of Stephen Sondheim and the canon of American Musical Theater. The Sondheim Award Gala benefits Signature’s artistic, education, and community outreach programs.

In a previous blog post, I mentioned that Forbidden Broadway: Merrily We Stole a Song was going to be presented in a limited engagement at the Hayes Theater in July and August. Its producers have postponed the production, stating, “The Broadway landscape is enormously crowded at this moment, and while we adore Forbidden Broadway, we are disappointed that the show will not open at the Hayes on Broadway this summer.” Created in 1982 by Gerard Alessandrini, Forbidden Broadway satirizes New York City’s current theatrical landscape. The production at the Hayes would have been the first Broadway mounting of one of Alessandrini’s revues.

I suppose you’ve missed the opportunity by now to buy Sondheim’s Connecticut property, an 18th-century countryside Colonial. It sold in April for $3.25 million. Spanning nine acres, the wooded property had a spacious living room with exposed-beam cathedral ceiling, a rustic wood-paneled office, stained glass windows a sunlit music room, and a spacious sunroom with old stone. Also part of the real estate package was a one-bedroom pool house and a detached garage in addition to the three-bedroom home, which was built in 1792. Other features of the countryside residence include a rustic wood-paneled office, a sunlit music room, and a spacious sunroom with old stone floors and ivory wainscoting. In November 2023, Sondheim’s Manhattan Townhouse sold for $7 million.

If the price of Sondheimian real estate was beyond your means, you might want to consider a Tuesday, June 18, 2024, auction of Sondheim’s personal effects. More than 200 lots of memorabilia, furnishings, antique puzzles and more from his townhouse and the Connecticut home will be offered by Doyle Auctioneers & Appraisers. Sondheim was a collector of antiques and curiosities of the Victorian and Edwardian eras; he assembled an unparalleled collection of early puzzles, games, rebuses, coin-operated machines and ephemera. The public is invited to view the exhibition in advance, June 14-17, at Doyle, located at 175 East 87th Street in New York. Select highlights are touring Doyle’s regional galleries during May. An auction catalogue will be available on May 20. For more information, follow this link.

If you have comments or questions about Sondheim, feel free to drop me an email at pender.rick@gmail.com.

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