We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger Phyllis Newman, the famed singing actress who won a Tony Award for her performance in Subways Are for Sleeping as well as the special 2009 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award. Newman, who was married to the late lyricist-librettist Adolph Green, will blog for Playbill.com all week; her first entry follows:
This is the first Monday in a while that I'm celebrating Steve Sondheim's birthday at home in my lounging pajamas, having my own private fiesta and thinking about him.
The last two Monday nights I have been lucky enough to be at a couple of knockout celebrations for his 80th birthday. March 15 was the glorious evening for and by the New York Philharmonic. I can only add my voice to all the praise and attention it's received.
March 22 was the Roundabout Theatre benefit…where we saw James Lapine's oh so original Sondheim on Sondheim. It's still in previews, so I won't breathe a word until it's official…..(IT'S GREAT!)
I heard through the Chinese internet…seconds before Google pulled out, that China has changed it from "The Year of the Ox" to "The Year of"….well, you get the point.
All these occasions, honors, tributes etc. are genuinely deserved….and anyone reading Playbill.com….knows that. But I wanted to add my two yen…by celebrating our more than fifty years of friendship.
On March 11, 1965, I opened in a show called Pleasures and Palaces written by the great Frank Loesser and directed by the brilliant Bob Fosse….in Detroit. It was bound for Broadway. On April 10, 1965, it closed….in Detroit. Its problems?….another time…..another blog.
Steve had come up for the last performance, and he, my husband Adolph and the wildly talented and funny Jack Cassidy…had many drinks. (Look up Jack Cassidy…if you don't know him)….and performed the ritual cursing of show business and the horse it came in on.
I came back to New York a sadder but not wiser ingénue. After a jobless week or two Steve called and said he had thought of something that might cheer me up. He gave me an address and directions to a house in Sneedens Landing…a town on the Hudson not far from NYC….a date, time, etc.
"How great"…I thought…he's inviting me to a party…but…wait….we're talking Steve, the original, the complicated, the good complicated….the friend who knows you and hits the bulls eye in every department.
When we arrived there were a few mutual friends, and it turned out to be one of the most interesting, entertaining and unique nights of any of our lives.
Steve had invented a game called "murder" for me – for me - cards were handed out – one person was secretly designated the murderer. One card would lead to another with clues…directions…actions…or death sentences. Our goal was to find the murderer and not get killed along the way. Picture people wandering through a dark house frantically trying to solve the mystery.
It's impossible to convey how scary, complex and yet funny it was (as you can tell by the above muddled paragraph). I could go on…so I will…
After my mother died in 1976…Steve invited me to come with him and two other theatre colleagues to Australia to teach some classes and do a TV show about American musicals. That trip took four of us all around the world…That was Steve's response to a friend's sorrow.
No crocodile tears…just real activities that were stimulating, appropriate to our talents and interests…and flat out fun.
There's so much more…this may seem gooey and sloppy…well maybe just sloppy…the world knows his genius, but I want you to know a little bit about his particular, selective and sensitive gift for friendship.
Here's to 81.
[caption id="attachment_5944" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Stephen Sondheim and Phyllis Newman"][/caption]