The Latest on Sondheim & Weidman's Wise Guys

News   The Latest on Sondheim & Weidman's Wise Guys
Stephen Sondheim's thrice-delayed new musical, Wise Guys, appears to be moving again.

Stephen Sondheim's thrice-delayed new musical, Wise Guys, appears to be moving again.

According to a report in the spring issue of the quarterly Sondheim Review, composer-lyricist Sondheim and librettist John Weidman are planning another workshop of the show in May, with a premiere now planned for February 1999 in Washington DC. Sam Mendes (Cabaret) has been mentioned as director.

Wise Guys, a vaudeville-style biography of the eccentric brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner, was commissioned by the Kennedy Center in DC, and was originally scheduled to open in fall 1996, then postponed annually, though at least two readings have been done in New York, one on March 27, 1997 featuring Victor Garber as Wilson, the other on Nov. 8, 1997 with Garber as Wilson and Nathan Lane as Addison. Also taking part in the November reading were Debra Monk as Mama Mizner plus an ensemble consisting of Ray Wills, Greg Jbara, William Parry and Randy Graff.

The November reading consisted of most of the first act, including an opening number (which actually consists of four songs, one of them called "Wise Guys"), followed by "Benicia," "Gold," "Next to You," "Addison's Trip Around the World," "Dowagers," "The Good Life" and "The Game."

Both readings were produced by Ira Weitzman. Sondheim is quoted in the spring 1998 SR interview saying, "At the moment we're working on a few revisions in the first act; the score is still only half done." Nevertheless, he said, "We hope to have a reading of the complete Wise Guys in May [1998] and a production in Washington next February."

When it finally opens, Wise Guys will be Sondheim's first complete theatre score since Passion in 1994. The longest previous gap between Sondheim stage musical openings was the five years between Do I Hear a Waltz and Company. Sondheim turned 68 in March.

Here is a list of Sondheim's stage scores:

West Side Story (lyrics only) 1957

Gypsy (lyrics only) 1959

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum 1962

Anyone Can Whistle 1964

Do I Hear a Waltz? (lyrics only) 1965

Company 1970

Follies 1971

A Little Night Music 1973

The Frogs 1974

Candide (additional lyrics only) 1974

Pacific Overtures 1977

Sweeney Todd 1979

Merrily We Roll Along 1981

Sunday in the Park With George 1984

Into the Woods 1988

Assassins 1991

Passion 1994

Sondheim has also written music for Dick Tracy, The Birdcage, Stavisky, Reds and other films.

A new biography of Sondheim is expected to be released June 14. Titled "Stephen Sondheim: A Life," the book is written by Meryle Secrest. It joins two major Sondheim biographies, those by Martin Gottfried and Craig Zadan, along with several minor ones.

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