Sondheim on Sondheim, a New Musical Reflection of a Life in Art, Begins on Broadway
By Kenneth Jones
Stephen Sondheim as you've never known him will materialize on Broadway March 19 with the first preview of Sondheim on Sondheim, a musical portrait that integrates stars, songs and candid video interviews with the composer-lyricist himself.
Director James Lapine conceived the new musical and enlisted a cast that includes Tony Award winner Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, Leslie Kritzer, Norm Lewis, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey and Matthew Scott.
Opening night at Studio 54 will be April 22. The limited run coincides with the 80th birthday of the Tony Award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-honored Sondheim (his milestone is March 22).
Well-known and obscure — or sometimes "cut" — songs from the writer's groundbreaking musicals will surface in Sondheim on Sondheim. Lapine taps a rich well, including West Side Story, Gypsy, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Passion, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Anyone Can Whistle and more.
Songs from Sondheim's pre-career school years are also addressed. Cook told Playbill.com that Sondheim has written a new song for the show; because Sondheim on Sondheim is in developmental previews, it's important to note that the songlist is subject to change.
Cook revealed that her songs in rehearsal included "In Buddy's Eyes," "Loving You" and "Send in the Clowns."
"The songs really do come out of these interviews," Cook told Playbill.com's Diva Talk column. "He talks about his work methods, and he talks about his father and his mother and working out problems with his sexuality, all of that. And all of the music, the things we do with the songs that were chosen, come right out of those interviews. So it's totally different [from past Sondheim revues] in that sense. Nobody's ever done that as far as I know."
According to Roundabout notes, "By writing songs that reflect the complexity of his characters, he has changed the way we define a great musical. But even though millions of fans know his songs by heart, few know much about Stephen Sondheim himself. Until now. Roundabout presents Sondheim on Sondheim, an intimate portrait of the famed composer in his own words... and music. Through the use of exclusive interview footage, you'll get an inside look at Sondheim's personal life and artistic process. An ensemble cast of Broadway's best will perform brand-new arrangements of over two dozen Sondheim tunes, ranging from the beloved to the obscure."
Sondheim on Sondheim will be a limited engagement through June 13.
Cook won the Tony Award for playing Marian in The Music Man and starred in the Tony-nominated concert Mostly Sondheim.
Wopat starred in Broadway's Annie Get Your Gun and A Catered Affair, and was Tony-nominated for his turns.
Kritzer also starred in A Catered Affair and Legally Blonde.
Morton was Olivier and Tony Award-nominated for his work as Boy George in Taboo.
Lewis recently played King Triton in The Little Mermaid, Javert in Les Miserables and has appeared in Side Show, Amour, Tommy and more.
Williams received a 2002 Tony Award nomination for her performance of the Witch in Into the Woods, and made her Broadway debut in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
Erin Mackey's credits include Glinda in Wicked on Broadway. Scott's credits include Broadway's Jersey Boys and A Catered Affair.
The understudies are Kyle Harris and N'Kenge.
The Sondheim on Sondheim creative team includes David Loud (music direction & arrangements), Dan Knechtges (musical staging), designers Beowulf Boritt (sets), Susan Hilferty (costumes), Ken Billington (lights), Dan Moses Schreier (sound) and Peter Flaherty (projection & video), plus Michael Starobin (orchestrations).
Roundabout has produced five Tony Award-nominated Sondheim revivals including Company (1995), Follies (2001), Tony Award-winning Assassins (2004), Pacific Overtures (2004) and Sunday in the Park with George (2008).
Sondheim on Sondheim plays Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 PM.
Ticket prices range from $36.50-$126.50. Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300, online at www.roundabouttheatre.org or at the Studio 54 Box Office (254 West 54th Street).
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