If you’re down to the end of your holiday shopping list but you need one memorable gift for that friend or family member who’s a musical theater fan, please be reminded that there’s a significant discount available on the price of The Stephen Sondheim Encyclopedia. Go to the Rowman & Littlefield website and use the coupon code 22JOYSALE to reduce the cost of this expansive, 650-page reference volume by 35 percent, to under $90! (The code is good through Jan. 6, 2023) Despite Sondheim’s passing a year ago — maybe even, in part, due to it — there is more interest than ever in his shows, which are being repeatedly revived with strong audience response. The Encyclopedia is a comprehensive way to get up to speed with any and all of his 18 major shows. It’s a useful took to well informed before going to a production, perhaps with a new concept.
Speaking of the reviews, those for Maria Friedman’s off-Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along have been glowing. (Here’s an example from The Guardian). Her London staging at the Menier Chocolate Factory back in 2013 was an award winner, and this limited-run production at the New York Theatre Workshop featuring Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez seems destined for a longer life. The current engagement is nearly sold out, but it will surely be extended and possibly even moved to Broadway. In addition, the much-praised staging of Into the Woods, originally intended for an eight-week run, has been extended several times with a now-firm closing on January 8. If you’re in New York City for the holidays, these productions are not to be missed.
Need more tips for books that Sondheim fans will value? Here are three recommendations:
• How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021), containing interviews with most of the show’s key performers and creative contributors, especially Sondheim. It also includes the musical’s full libretto.
• Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of composer Richard Rodgers, expansively and often amusingly annotated and clarified by New York Times theater critic Jesse Green (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022). Her candid narrative about her life in the musical theater and beyond offers many previously unknown details about her lifelong friendship with Sondheim.
• Finale: Late Conversations with Stephen Sondheim by D. T. Max (HarperCollins, 2022), containing transcripts of exchanges between the New Yorker staff writer and Sondheim between 2016 and 2019 as well as narrative observations about interviewing Sondheim at home.
Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, has been America’s most prolific producer of shows by Sondheim since the early 1990s. For its 2022-2023 season, Signature (SigTheatre.org/Sondheim) has been celebrating Sondheim with productions (Into the Woods is currently onstage through Jan. 29, 2023) and a season-long tribute, So Many Possibilities, a series of free video events. Here’s a quick item that outlines all that’s being offered, including an endeavor to sing every one of Sondheim’s songs! Catch a free episode of The Signature Show, released on the first anniversary of his passing. You’ll hear great renditions of “Live Alone and Like It” from the film Dick Tracy and the bossa nova inspired “Love, I Hear” from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum —as well as a tough trivia guessing game, “Sondheim or Someone Else?”
When I edited The Sondheim Review, I often turned to Peter Khoury for reports about productions of Sondheim shows in Australia. He recently published an article in the Australian Arts Review that explores the surge of interest in Sondheim’s work down under — and beyond — since his death. Here’s a link to “Life After Sondheim: We Die But We Don’t.” Be sure to follow some of the video links Khoury has used to illustrate his topic. It’s a great reminder that Sondheim’s genius lives on.
I send my best wishes to each and every Sondheim fan for 2023!