Stephen Sondheim's first new musical since Road Show in 2008 had a ”top secret” reading in New York last week, and The New York Post quotes a source saying, “The music was gorgeous.”
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. The reading was performed by a cast that included Norm Lewis, Shuler Hensley, Sierra Boggess, Nancy Opel and Marc Kudisch.
The Post's unnamed source was quoted saying, “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.
The 86-year-old Sondheim, whose career stretches back to the 1950s with Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Company and more than a dozen more musicals, is collaborating with librettist David Ives (All in the Timing).
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 Public Theater previously staged the world premiere of Sondheim and John Weidman’s Road Show in 2008.
The project, said Sondheim, is two acts, the first based on Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), the second The Exterminating Angel (1962). 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.”
Sondheim said at Glimmerglass, “We’re in touch with the Buñuel estate … we will have commercial musical rights,” referring to The New York Times’ review that morning of Thomas Ades’ opera version of The Exterminating Angel, which premiered at the Salzburg Festival last week. Ades, Sondheim said, had “opera rights” to the movie, adding, “I will not hear any more about (the opera version) except what I read in The Times today…(the musical version) will be own style, my own voice.”
(Updated August 23, 2016)