Between the lackluster reception afforded the first Broadway revival of Follies, the postponement of Assassins and the lawsuit over Gold!, the last couple of years haven't been the best of times for Stephen Sondheim. But this summer, the composer received the antidote to that string of bad news in the form of a super successful six-show tribute to his work in the nation's capital.
The Sondheim Celebration, which began back on May 10 and offered new productions of Sweeney Todd, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along, concludes on Aug. 25 with the final performance A Little Night Music. Though some shows were better reviewed than others, the general impression is that the event was a triumph for both Sondheim and the Kennedy Center, with pundits asking what both will do for an encore.
For those who were unable to make it to DC, on Oct. 21 the Kennedy Center will present "A Concert Spectacular of Musical Highlights Featuring Stars from the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration" at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. The evening will include performances from all six musicals as well as songs rendered by Mandy Patinkin and Barbara Cook, who both presented their personal Sondheim tributes at the DC celebration.
If that wasn't enough to keep Sondheim smiling, this week it was revealed that the Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 2001 production of Stephen Sondheim's musical look at the opening of Japan to the West, Pacific Overtures (one of the shows the Kennedy Center didn't look at), will be remounted at London's famous Donmar Warehouse. The co- production will play the West End in June 2003.
Martha Plimpton, who earned solid reviews in last season's Atlantic Theatre Company production of Hobson's Choice, and Kim Cattrall ("Sex and the City") will star in the Public Theater's New York premiere of David Mamet's new play, Boston Marriage in November. American producers Anita Waxman and Elizabeth Williams will team with the Public. Karen Kohlhaas will direct. The number of Sept. 11-themed plays which will be running on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks is growing. The Guys, Anne Nelson's two-hander, is, of course, still running at Off Broadway's Bat Theatre Company, where it originated. The show has also played in L.A. and London. This week, news came that The Goodman Theatre and Northlight Theatre Company will co-present the Chicago premiere of The Guys. The production, running five performances only, Sept. 10 14, will take place at the Goodman's Owen Theatre. B. J. Jones, the artistic director of Northlight, will star in the two-hander with Mary Beth Fisher. Robert Falls, the Goodman's artistic director, will direct. At the same time, husband-and-wife actors Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise will star in a production of The Guys for the Carolina Arts Festival. It will be presented at the Kennedy Theatre at the BTI Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 11-12.
Then there are the more than 150 theatre artists who will come together for Brave New World—a three-day benefit performance at Town Hall. Brave New World, planned for Sept. 9 through Sept. 11, was the brainchild of playwright J. Dakota Powell, who felt an immediate impulse to respond to the tragedy through her art. She soon discovered that many of her fellow artists felt the same way. Among those artists are directors Gregory Mosher, John Rando, Lloyd Richards, Anne Bogart, Jim Simpson, Scott Ellis, Lisa Peterson, Marion McClinton; performers Matthew Broderick, Billy Crudup, Sigourney Weaver, Vanessa Williams, Mary Louise Parker, Stockard Channing, Anne Jackson, Eli Wallach, Frank Langella, Camryn Manheim, Bebe Neuwirth, Estelle Parsons, Ann Reinking, Chita Rivera, Marisa Tomei, Sam Waterston, Eve Ensler, Melissa Errico, Peter Gallagher, Janeane Garofalo, Donna Murphy, Harvey Keitel, Cynthia Nixon, Austin Pendleton, John Ritter, Mercedes Ruehl and Frank Wood; and playwrights and composers Christopher Durang, John Guare, Beth Henley, Tina Howe, David Henry Hwang, Arthur Kopit, Alan Menken, David Rabe, Alfred Uhry, Lanford Wilson and Stephen Sondheim.
By the afternoon of Aug. 23 there was still no word about how much longer I'm Not Rappaport would stick around at the Booth Theatre. For the past two weeks a "provisional closing notice" has been posted, which gives the producers the option of pulling the plug on the staging at any moment. Last weekend, producers Elliot Martin and Lewis Allen were encouraged by a slightly better box office, so they are keeping the show running at least to Aug. 25.
According to industry box office tallies, the week of Aug. 12-18 the show grossed $113,559 (of a potential $400,000) filling the theatre to 47.1 percent of capacity (compared to $96, 520 and 38.3 percent the previous week). Stay tuned.
—By Robert Simonson