The Very Model of a Modern Director/Conductor: Ted Sperling Prepares for Public Theater Penzance Gala

By Carey Purcell
05 Jun 2013

Kevin Kline
Photo by Monica Simoes

One of the playful aspects Sperling remembers from the Public's original production of Pirates was the conductor engaging in an on-stage swordfight with the Pirate King, using his baton as a weapon. He also remembered the staging featuring a pastoral ramp between the orchestra and the audience, rather than housing the orchestra deep in a pit. This technique gave the audience a view of the orchestra, and Sperling could see percussionists "going crazy" on the xylophone.

"I like that trend," he said of orchestras being featured onstage or keeping them visible. "It reminds people that the orchestra is an integral part of musicals, and it's real people playing the music."

Along with his history of attending performances, Sperling also has a long history of working with The Public Theater, where he serves as musical theater initiative consultant, and where his credits include See What I Wanna See and February House.

"There's lots of musical activity at the Public," he said. "It's very exciting."

Sperling also recently directed the Off-Broadway production of The Other Josh Cohen, which he described as "very fresh and different."

"I like to keep doing new things," he said. "I like to challenge myself."

Along with the Public Theater gala, Sperling's upcoming engagements include conducting a concert production of She Loves Me June 22 and 23 at the Caramoor Festival in Katonah, NY. Serving as another example of his career going full circle, She Loves Me is an adaptation of "The Shop Around the Corner," which also inspired the movie "You've Got Mail," a Nora Ephron film Sperling lists as one of his favorites.

Sperling will also conduct "A Broadway Romance," featuring the New York Philharmonic and soloists Betsy Wolfe and Andrew Samonsky at the Vail Valley Music Festival in Vail, CO, July 24.

Sperling, who also has two-year old twin girls, laughed when asked if, given the versatile and prolific nature of his work, he ever sleeps.

"I'm a good napper," he said. "[I'm okay] as long as my work keeps me on my toes. When I sit down, that's the problem."

With a cast that includes comedic stars Idle and Short, being kept on his toes probably will not be a problem.

The Pirates of Penzance Gala will take place June 10. Tickets and more information can be obtained by calling (212) 539-8634, e-mailing or visiting

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Charlotte Rae and Martin Sheen in Romeo and Juliet, 1968
Photo by George E. Joseph/ŠThe New York Public Library