"Anyone Can Whistle." A song about letting go, and depending on where I am in my life, it always takes on a new meaning.
For very personal reasons, my favorite Sondheim song has got to be "Someone In a Tree" from Pacific Overtures. As a Sondheim fan, I love listening to this song because it is musical theatre story-telling at its finest, and I love the way he deconstructs the story and plays with our concepts of time, perspective, history and memory. As a performer, singing this song eight times a week on Broadway was a thrilling experience and such great fun. The same satisfaction I get from listening to this song as a fan is something I get to enjoy and relish as a performer when I'm the lucky guy that gets to do the singing!
It is impossible to pick one song. Therefore I choose the entire score of Pacific Overtures.
The principal joy in theatre is collaboration, and one of the greatest collaborations I ever experienced was singing "Opening Doors" with Colin Donnell, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Kenita Miller, Betsy Wolfe and Adam Grupper for the Encores! revival of Merrily We Roll Along. An insanely tricky song, with typewriter percussion to boot. The verses, in particular, are one melody split up among three singers, and I will never forget Celia, Colin and I at every intermission, running them one more time before going onstage for Act Two. The triumph we felt every night in getting it right perfectly matched the spirit of our characters as they made their way in the world.
I love the song "Not While I'm Around" because I used to sing it to my littlest one Aron at bedtime… It has a lot of meaning for me.
I've decided that my favorite song is "Together, Wherever We Go" from Gypsy… My grandparents, my brother and I used to sing this song on car trips during the summer, and I have the best memories singing this song! It's a timeless song that lifts your spirits instantly!
This is a real toss-up, but since both songs are in the same show I'm cheating a little and mentioning them both: "Like it Was" and "Not a Day Goes By" from the first act of Merrily We Roll Along.
I love their lyrics, I love singing them, and as I get older, I relate more and more with the pain and longing and sad resignation, as well as the embers of anger, that are baked into both of them. They invoke the emotions that inevitably come with time and having lived an imperfect life, and oh, man… that’s a deep well.
They are both relatively short songs, but they are packed with truth, like the volumes that the word "everything" conveys in "Like it Was," or the perfect uses of "sweating" and "blessed" in "Not a Day Goes By." Both songs take a word that most people gloss over in life and charades — "and" — and turn it into something vital, even though it's never hit hard in phrasing. And, in the case of "Not a Day Goes By," it only takes the repetition of two words — "day" and "after" — in a brilliant musical loop to suggest an entire history in 3.5 measures. And sure, there are so many other incredible Sondheim songs that I'd love to tackle someday, but if I could only ever sing these two for the rest of my life, I would be perfectly fine with that. (As long as they're in my key...)
Wow, there's so many that I love, but I am going to pick "No One Is Alone"!
One of my favorite musicals is Sunday In The Park With George, and I've always particularly loved the song "Move On." That song provided me with a very special experience when I was performing in Forbidden Broadway. There was a sketch in the show that was essentially a love letter to Sondheim, and in it I impersonated Bernadette Peters. Then one day, Stephen Sondheim came to the show, and as I was singing a parody of "Move On," giving my best Bernadette pout, I heard Sondheim let out a huge belly laugh! That was it for me. I had my dream job singing my favorite Sondheim song in front of Stephen Sondheim himself, and I made him laugh. For the rest of my life that's what I think of whenever I hear "Move On"!
I've had so many different levels of life-changing, like when I heard Stephen Sondheim for the first time when I was five, that changed my life. That was the thing where I was like, "Oh my gosh, hold on. People sing their feelings? This is remarkable." … The song "I Remember Sky" was [used for] learning to play the piano. My mom is a voice teacher, and she had it on the piano, and I just started plunking it out. I was probably like 8 or 9, and then I started singing along to it, and I was crying because I just thought it was so unbelievably beautiful.
Similarly to Jason Robert Brown, to me, Stephen Sondheim comes from a place of soul and heart, and he's so clever, and he's so wise, and he's so human. "I Remember Sky" is the first song I ever heard of his, and to me, it is still my favorite. It is still the most beautiful. The score of Into the Woods, to me, is just perfect. It's perfect. I love that show so much. I want to play every single part in that show.
I do "Losing My Mind" in my concert, and it's kind of like an incredible song, so I'll say that.
One of my absolute favorite Sondheim songs is "I Know Things Now," sung by Red Riding Hood in the wonderful musical Into the Woods. Now, I know that I will never play Red Riding Hood, but I just love her song. It is a perfect song! It describes, so exquisitely, the moment in a young girl's life when she moves from innocence to experience. I've coached several young actress/singers singing the song for their university or conservatory auditions. And I love to sing it, myself, in concert, from time to time, as an example of a perfect theatre character song. No one writes a monologue song like Sondheim. And, like everybody else, I love the guy with all my heart. Happy Birthday, Mr. Sondheim!
There is a song in Passion that was always one of my favorites, "I Wish I Could Forget You," which Fosca sings to Giorgio midway though the play. It is a profound, complex moment where she has him write a letter from him addressed to her. She has him write the words she wishes he would say to her, but they are also the words she would like to say to him, but can't. The melody is glorious and painful and passionate. I know no one else who could write such a complex, layered, perfect musical scene as that one. And, as an actor, he gives you everything you need musically and lyrically to find your way into it.
Max von Essen
There are so many because he's just so incredible. I remember the first song I ever learned. I wasn't aware of Sondheim until I was in college and there was another music student there that introduced me to him and I just became obsessed. But the first song I ever learned, there were two I did in this concert, "What Can You Lose" from "Dick Tracy" and the other one was "Move On" from Sunday in the Park with George. I'll never forget just learning that and it was like all the training I had accrued until that point was for that song. My jaw would just drop and the note would come out and it was like, "This is what thrilling theatre singing can be."
The cast of Off-Broadway's Into the Woods
"The Miller's Son" from A Little Night Music is my favorite Sondheim song to sing. I love the joie de vivre that Petra explodes with. I love how she dreams her life and moves through different moods as she explores what could be, but ultimately what most likely will be.
If I had to choose one favorite Sondheim song it would be "Sorry/Grateful." It so simply and beautifully captures how life is always two (or more) things at once. And, not just marriage, but all of human experience: friendships, family, career... I think about that song a lot.
A First Look at Fiasco Theater's Re-Imagined, Ten-Person Into the Woods at Roundabout
One song that I'm currently in love with is "I Remember" from Evening Primrose, an odd little made-for-television show that Sondheim wrote with James Goldman. Every time I sing it, it moves me. It's hard to articulate why it means so much to me, but I think it's because the music is simple and beautiful, and the lyrics capture, in only the way that Sondheim can, the bittersweetness of time passing. And the way Sondheim writes, I really experience the story fully every time. In the song, the character is trying so hard to find the right language to capture her old memories of a life she once knew — "I remember sky/it was blue as ink," and yet she can't quite trust herself, "Or at least I think/I remember sky" because memories are just that, memories: beautiful but intangible. You're left with both the sadness of that, the beauty of that and the hope that maybe she will still someday seem some sky again.
Also, funny story, but not only did I sing "I Remember" for my Into the Woods audition, but I also had the opportunity to sing it for a master class with Barbara Cook, one that Sondheim himself was observing. Ms. Cook didn't know the song very well, so after I sang it, she said something to the effect of, "That was nice, but I'm not sure if I got all the words." My heart plummeted to the floor, feeling like I had committed the ultimate sin in front of the maestro himself, until a voice from the back of the room said, "I did." And, it was Sondheim. So, at least he felt like I communicated what he wrote. And, Ms. Cook and I then went on to have a great session working on another song she knew better. But I hope she revisits "I Remember" sometime because I think she's a genius and could do it some great justice.