James Lapine, Sondheim's collaborator on the musicals Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods and Passion, conceived and directed the Roundabout Theatre Company production — part starry revue, part video documentary — now at Studio 54. He coaxed the 80-year-old Sondheim to write a new piece for the show. What materialized was a self-deprecating comic song called "God" for the opening of the second act.
More of a palate-cleansing intro than a full meal, "God" is nevertheless the first new Sondheim song on Broadway since 2004, when newly written numbers were added to a reconceived version of the musical The Frogs at the Vivian Beaumont.
The full company of Sondheim on Sondheim — including Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat — sings "God," a tongue-in-cheek exploration of how most theatregoers view his place in the artistic universe.
I mean the man's a god!
The song is intercut with video interviews of Sondheim talking about tools of his trade: his couch, his computer, "Blackwing" pencils with soft lead and 32-line yellow pads.
Smart! The lyrics are so smart
And the music has such heart!
It has heart?
Well, in part…
The song, Lapine confirmed through a spokesman, was inspired by a past New York magazine cover story that asked, in a headline, "Is Stephen Sondheim God?"
The answer is clear. For evidence, listen to the lyrics of Do I Hear a Waltz?, Gypsy and West Side Story, plus the scores of "Evening Primrose," A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Passion, The Frogs and Road Show.