Actor Matthew Morrison, who took part in a November 2016 workshop of the new Stephen Sondheim-David Ives musical with the working title Buñuel, described the score as “challenging” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Melodies are so ungeneric, challenging, I couldn’t sleep the night before singing my parts,” he said.
The story went on to say, “Fingers crossed, [the show] will open at the Public Theater in New York in the fall.”
The show had a “mini workshop” this week at the Public Theater and a full-scale workshop is being planned for March 2017. The Post report said “producer Scott Rudin is involved, so if the reviews are good, it’s sure to move to Broadway, perhaps by the spring of 2018, when the composer will celebrate his 88th birthday.”
Mantello has a long Broadway résumé of plays and musicals, notably the blockbuster Wicked and the 2004 revival of Sondheim’s Assassins, plus the 2016 Tony-winning Best Play, The Humans. Mantello himself won Best Director Tony Awards for Take Me Out and Assassins.
Representatives for the Public Theater told Playbill.com earlier this year, “We are happily developing the Buñuel project with Stephen Sondheim and hope to present it in the near future but no set date has been confirmed.”
The project, Sondheim has previously revealed, is in two acts, the first based on Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), the second on The Exterminating Angel (1962), both set at surreal dinner parties. The musical, Sondheim said, is about “trying to find a place to have dinner.” The first deals with interruptions to dinner, the second is about “people who have dinner and can’t leave,” which “is my cheerful view of the world today.”
Inspired by two surrealist films by Spanish director Luis Buñuel, the musical is being developed at The Public Theater—incubator of Hair, A Chorus Line, and Hamilton—under the working title Buñuel. It will be Sondheim's first new musical since his and John Weidman’s Road Show in 2008, which was also done at the Public.
The fall workshop featured Shuler Hensley, Heidi Blickenstaff, Sierra Boggess, Gabriel Ebert, Sara Stiles, Michael Cerveris, and Jennifer Simard.
An August 2016 reading of Act I was performed by a cast that included Brian Stokes Mitchell, Michael C. Hall, Josh Henry, along with Hensley, Blickenstaff, Boggess, Ebert, and Stiles. The Post quoted an unnamed source saying, “The music was gorgeous.”
The Post’s source also said, “It reminded me of [Sondheim's 1994 show] Passion, where Steve’s music flows in and out of the storyline. It’s not an old-fashioned Sondheim show — you know, song, dialogue, then a song. It’s much more seamless.”
Another source called Ives’ script “nonlinear.” Post reporter Michael Riedel wrote, ”It moves backward and forward in time. I hear it’s a bit tricky to follow on the page, but, with Sondheim’s songs, is clear and funny on the stage.”
Fans were hoping it would be ready for an Off-Broadway premiere in 2017, but the Post reports that only Act I is complete. Sondheim suggested the 2017 time frame during a talk back at the Glimmerglass Festival earlier this year.
(Updated January 5, 2017)