Sweeney Director John Doyle Has Plans for Another Sondheim Show; Will Bobby Play the Sousaphone?

News   Sweeney Director John Doyle Has Plans for Another Sondheim Show; Will Bobby Play the Sousaphone? Director John Doyle will reinvent Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company at the Tony Award-honored Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park by taking a page from his conception of the upcoming Broadway Sweeney Todd production.

When the marriage-minded Company plays the Robert S. Marx Theatre of the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park March 14-April 14, 2006, audiences can expect "a bold reinvention of the show in which the actors sing, dance and play all of the musical instruments," according to the season announcement.

The new Broadway revival of Sweeney Todd, directed and designed by Doyle at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre starting Oct. 3, is based on Doyle's earlier London conceit in which a small ensemble of actors play multiple roles and also play musical instruments. In this revival, Patti LuPone, as Mrs. Lovett, will play the tuba. Michael Cerveris, as Sweeney, will play guitar.

Company is the 1970 urbane musical about a single New Yorker, Robert, and his "good and crazy" married friends. A prime example of the "concept musical," its narrative is broken up as series of scenes between "Bobby" and his friends and lovers. Doyle's Company engagement at the Playhouse in the Park came at the invitation of Playhouse producing artistic director Edward Stern.

The Company creative team will include David Gallo (set designer); Ann Hould-Ward (costume designer); and Thomas Hase (lighting designer).

The Playhouse its opening its 2005-06 season with a Stern-directed staging of Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which has a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Bob Walton is playing Pseudolus. Performances play Sept. 6-Oct. 7 Stern told Playbill.com that he knew of Doyle's past work at the Watermill in suburban London and flew to London to have a meeting with Doyle and see the reconceived Sweeney Todd.

The Cincinnati director was knocked out by the creativity of the production. "I was amazed by it," Stern said.

Rather than join in the frenzy of producers hoping to move Sweeney stateside (the Playhouse had staged it recently, anyway), Stern asked Doyle what Sondheim show he'd like to direct next. Company was the answer.

"This will be a production no one has seen before," Stern said. "They may be familiar with the piece but they won't be familiar with the style."

Stern said Sondheim gave his blessing for a new take on Company. There have been a couple of different versions of the script and score since 1970. Stern said the song "Marry Me a Little" (written for but not used in 1970, yet heard in the 1995 Roundabout Theatre revival) will be used in the Cincy run.

The 2006 Company will mark the sixth work by Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park under Stern's leadership.

"It's important to celebrate the greatest living artist in American musical theatre," Stern said.

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, a two-stage operation, was honored with the Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2004. Since 1992, the Playhouse has been under the leadership of producing artistic director Edward Stern and executive director Buzz Ward, who oversee a full-time staff of 75.

For more information, visit www.cincyplay.com.