Category Archives: Sondheim

Meryl you are a witch???

No I am not complaining about my disappointment in Meryl Streep’s Oscar win last week for “The Iron Lady“.

This post is much more of a delight.

Meryl Streep is rumoured to be cast as the Witch in a film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Into The Woods”. The film is to be directed by Rob Marshall who brought “Chicago” to the screens successfully (in box office terms-not artistic) but we must remember he is also responsible for bringing “Nine” to the screen which was a disaster (box office and artistically!) I do love his TV remake of “Annie” that was a success in my own opinion.

But there is more rumour-mongering about Meryl as the Witch…..

The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare In The Park Festival are mounting an outdoor production of the Sondheim musical this July and rumoured to play the Witch is none other than the reigning Oscar Queen Meryl. Is this an audition?

I am a big fan of this show and was very very lucky to see the original Broadway production way back in 1987 – Bernadette Peters played the Witch and she was fabulous. Of the course the role to steal the show belongs to the Baker’s Wife. Who will be cast in that coveted role? Joanna Gleason won the Tony that year and she was also fabulous! I recall turning to my partner and said – “she will win the Tony, not Peters!”

Brilliant Bernadette Peters – the original Witch of the woods.

In the meanwhile…..

Sondheim has announced that he is collaborating on a new musical with playwright David Ives who is currently represented on Broadway with the hit show “Venus In Fur” – of which Babs has on his list of “shows to see” when he is in town in May.

He has apparently written 20-30 minutes of the piece and says of it – “Having spent the better part of four years writing two books [Finishing the Hat and Look I Made a Hat], I’m really rusty,” Sondheim humbly said of his process. “I sit at the piano and think, ‘Where’s middle C?’ Any muscles, as you know, atrophy when you don’t use them, and I haven’t been using my musical muscles.”

Who cares? Any thought of another Sondheim musical certainly gets my muscles into action. I am so excited about this.

And what does he say about Streep the Witch? Sondheim neither confirms nor denies the rumours. “We will see,” the composer said. “I think she’d be great.”

My hero Stephen Sondheim.

Nina Arianda & Hugh Dancy star in David Ive’s “Venus In Fur”.

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Here she is boys…here comes Babs!

The other Babs, the more famous one!

RUMOUR has it (according to gossip monger and Spiderman the musical’s arch nemesis Michael Riedel of the NY Post) that Barbra Striesand is interested in producing, directing and starring in a new movie version of that great Broadway stage musical  “GYPSY”.

She is way too old, and too soft to play the part, in my own opinion. (soft in her screen persona of movie star – i bet she is a tough as nails). Rose needs to be tough, and a monster, without manicured fingernails, although with them she will be able to pick up egg rolls minus chopsticks, Mr Goldstone!

Arthur Laurents the book writer of the classic and arguably best ever Broadway book show has expressed his approval, he is an old, and I do mean old – aged 92 (possibly senile) old friend of Babs the diva beyond diva. So, hey old friends what do you say old friends? Please do not make this movie.

Here are a slew of grand divas who have performed, and (sometimes) perfected the grand old role of Momma Rose.

The original Rose – ETHEL MERMAN

ANGELA LANSBURY

ROSALIND RUSSELL

BETTE MIDLER

TYNE DALY

LINDA LAVIN (who I saw- a replacement for Tyne Daly, she was fabulous)

BERNADETTE PETERS

PATTI LUPONE (need I say more)

BABS ??? ( and those fingernails)

 

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The parade leaves town….

Original Broadway Cast Recoding CD Cover

Image via Wikipedia

The Magnormos Sondheim Triptyche is over, withdrawals are setting in. When will I get my next Sondheim fix? Into the CD collection I go.

Last night was the final production – “Anyone Can Whistle”. Another of Sondheim’s lesser  known and seldom performed musicals, and another Broadway flop!

It was Sondheim’s second produced Broadway show in which he wrote both music & lyrics, following the success of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”in 1962. It premiered on April 4 1964, and closed after only 9 performances. It was savaged by the critics of the day, and angry audiences walked out in droves – even talking back to the performers on stage.

It was the stage musical debut of Angela Lansbury and starred movie actress Lee Remick, in the role that director Arthur Laurents offered to the other Babs -Barbra Striesand who turned it down to do “Funny Girl”.

Whilst the show has its problems (mostly book), it also has many pleasures.

The plot revolves around a fictitious American town, ruled over by a corrupt Mayoress – Cora Hoover Hooper. With the help of her cronies she fakes a miracle to draw in tourists to make money and help the town out of it’s financial woes. Out to expose the fraud is a sweet natured nurse – Fay Apple, who looks after the local looney bin – the Cookie Jar, full of cookies of course – kooky! and kooky it certainly is.

The first half of the show is very absurdist and after the arrival of a new ‘psychiatrist’ – J. Bowden Hapgood, things spiral out of control. The second half calms down a little bit and is full of glorious Sondheim tunes.

Basically it’s relevant message is to mantain individuality in a conformist society. Poking fun at government, religion, psychiatry and lots more, it sure was an out there show when it had it’s premiere. Audiences weren’t ready for it, and with a weak book it is easy to see why it failed.

What it does have though is of course Sondheim’s wonderful score – aside from the ‘crazy’ numbers it is full of some of his most romantic songs and strong anthems –  There’s A Parade In Town,  With So Little To Be Sure Of,  Everybody Says Don’t & the title tune, are all gems.

The Magnormos production should be admired for its ambitious undertaking, with a cast of pros and newcomers it was finely sung and well acted once more. Using a chorus of youngsters as the cookies/towns people was a lot of fun – with a nod to the hit TV series Glee perhaps?

Anne Wood was very good and hilarious as Cora the mayoress (though she managed to flub the end of ‘Parade In Town’), with Robert Grubb alongside as her main cohort they were responsible for a lot of nice comic touches.If only they had studied their scripts a bit more, perhaps they were busy leading up to the performance? It was very distracting.

Dan Humphries as Hapgood was excellent in voice and charming in character – his big number ‘Everybody Say’s Don’t’ was excellent.

The highlight of the cast was Patrice Tipoki as Nurse Fay Apple, she had a great belting voice and a sweetness that was spot on, I am sure we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future. Her rendition of ‘See What It Gets You’ was the big showstopper.

Overall it was an admirable attempt at a difficult show – hats off to director Aaron Joyner – founder of Magnormos.

And hats off to all the fine performers and musicians of all  3 shows in the triptyche – our own Sondheim birthday gift.

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Saturday Night on a Monday night.

The Magnormos Musical Theatre company have joined other worldwide companies in celebrating composer Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday year. He became an octogenarian on March 22.

Magnormos decided to present a Sondheim Triptyche – 3 concert productions of lesser known musicals composed by Sondheim. All performed in the Melbourne Recital hall.

The 3 chosen musicals being:

1. Saturday Night (1954)

2. Merrily We Roll Along (1981)

3. Anyone Can Whistle (1964)

So off I went on Monday night to see the first presentation “Saturday Night”.

I have seen most productions of Sondheim musicals in some form, whether professional, amateur or in concert form over the years. I had never seen a production of Saturday Night, so a real first for me. And what a treat it was.

Saturday Night was supposed to be Sondheim’s first ever Broadway show, but when it was due to be performed back in 1954 the shows producer died and the show was shelved. It finally was performed in New York, off Broadway in 2000. Some of the songs have appeared in revues and tribute albums – I recognized “So Many People” and “What More Do I Need”, 2 terrific tunes. Sondheim has a fondness for the musical, but he has said it is his baby show, and he is embarrassed by some of the corny gags and lyrics. I thought that was part of it’s great charm.

It is very old fashioned but you can see the formation of a great composer in it’s score. The book was written by Julius J. Epstein, based on the play “Front Porch in Flatbush”. written by Julius and his brother Phillip G. Epstein who both wrote the screenplay for “Casablanca”, which won them an Oscar.

This is the plot. In 1929 inBrooklyn, New York, a group of  bachelor friends are restless on several Saturday nights because they have no dates. Gene, who works in a minor job in a Wall Street firm, has dreams of the exciting society life to be found in Manhattan, across the bridge,  while his friends are content to stay in the neighborhood. Gene meets Helen, who is crashing a party at the Plaza Hotel (as is Gene). He schemes to “get rich quick”, but his plan backfires and he barely escapes jail.

The wonderful Magnormos cast did a fine job – presented as a concert with scripts in hand, and projections to help give you a sense of place. They sang well, had excellent comic timing, they really didn’t put a foot wrong. With very good direction and choreography it was a fun show. I guess the only thing was that there were no mikes, as it was presented in the recital hall with excellent acoustics.This sometimes made it a bit of a struggle to hear some of the lyrics, but once you got used to it, the charms of the show took over. Sing out Louise!  Singers nowadays have very little training in projection, such a shame. Where’s Ethel & Patti when you need them 🙂

I am very excited to see next Monday’s presentation of “Merrily We Roll Along”, it is one of my favorite Sondheim scores. Will blab about it next week.

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Light the lights

Everythings coming up roses for famed Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim as the lights are lit for the theatre named after the great man.

Photos courtesy of Broadwayworld.com

Check out the photo coverage by clicking on the link

Photo Coverage: Stephen Sondheim Theatre Unveiled! 2010/09/15.

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Putting it together

Workmen were seen putting up the marquee signage for the newly christened Stephen Sondheim theatre on Sept 10.

Named after the famed Broadway composer, (my all time favorite) the official lighting up ceremony will occur on Sept 15. Wish I could be there.

The theatre was formerly the Henry Miller’s theatre It opened in 1918 under that name. Over the years the venue has been a legit house, nightclub, cinema, and an x-rated movie house. Kind of funny that the first production to play the theatre under the new name will be “The Pee Wee Herman Show”. If you recall back in 1991, Paul Reubens, the creator of Pee Wee was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theatre.

The  theatre is located at 124 West 43rd Street, between Broadway and 6th Avenue.

Photos by Allison M. Broder

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Herman plays Sondheim

No it is not a pairing of songwriters Jerry Herman & Stephen Sondheim, that would be way too weird.

It is Pee Wee Herman and his hit stage show, which will be performed at the newly named Stephen Sondheim theatre.

I would love to see this one, that’s for sure

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“Great Performances” to Broadcast Sondheim: The Birthday Concert in November – Playbill.com

Something to look forward to, it should eventually come out on DVD, or anyone who has a friend in the US that has a DVD recorder………..

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via “Great Performances” to Broadcast Sondheim: The Birthday Concert in November – Playbill.com.

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The show edition

Thought it was about time I made time, and reported on the shows I have seen, so far.

1. SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM.

What a great choice for my first show. A musical revue, come documentary of sorts, all about Stephen Sondheim. Most of you know how big a fan I am, so you could imagine my excitement. It was fantastic. A clever well conceived theatre piece. Combining wonderful interpretations of many Sondheim tunes, interspersed with video footage of old archival Sondheim interviews and some specially filmed ones. Hearing the grand master in his own words was very enlightening. He is very funny, and very honest and open. The set was great, it featured broken tile like pieces that were the video screens, they revolved, slid in and out, did all sorts of thing, sort of like moving scrabble pieces, perhaps a tribute to Sondheim’s favorite thing, crossword puzzles?

The show had a stellar cast, some perhaps miscast, but all a pleasure to watch perform. The divine Barbara Cook sung beautifully of course, perhaps a bit hammy as an actress, but it doesn’t require great acting. The very beautiful Vanessa Williams(Ugly Betty) has a good set of lungs, Norm Lewis who is very highly regarded here on Broadway was simply superb. Tom Wopat (TV’s Dukes Of Hazzard), was good too, though his voice was having problems, perhaps a cold. He was probably not the best casting choice for the roles he played, but he did fine. Leslie Kritzer, an up and comer was fantastic, she has a belting voice and is a great comedian. Her rendition of “Know You Know” fom Merrily We Roll Along was a highlight. Euan Morton, who played Boy George in the musical Taboo, had some great moments, particularly in the Merrily We Roll Along sequences. It felt like he might be a casting choice if they revive it, And judging from the number of tunes from the show, they might, and should. There were 2 other young singers who rounded out the cast, both good, but nothing to rave about.

It was directed by James Lapine, a frequent collaborator of Sondheim. He knows the man and his music, so he made some good choices. I particularly like the end of the first half which highlighted all the end of first half numbers. “Sunday” from Sunday In The Park, “Ever After” from Into The Woods, “A Weekend In The Country” from Night Music……clever. The highlights of the show were Barbara Cook singing “Send In The Clowns” (I know not another version), she sang it beautifully. And Norm Lewis singing “Being Alive” was amazing, it stopped the show, for a long time. It gave me goosebumps. I could go on and on, but you get the drift. I LOVED IT

2. HAIR

A revival of the famed rock musical. It was its closing weekend after a 2 year run. A superbly realised production, very powerful and relevant even today. The cast were very energetic, but not being the originals, it showed. Slightly tired and undisciplined, that was the only let down. 2 of the leads were American Idol alumni, good voices, not so good actors. The sets and lighting were great. Overall I loved it. As did the audience.

3. RED

The multi award winning play, the hit of the season. Written by film scribe John Logan. It is about the great painter Mark Rothko, who with the help of a new assistant, is preparing, and painting his recently commission Seagram Building murals. Well if you are familiar with Rothko, you will know the results and the paintings. Starring the wonderful Alfred Molina, as Rothko, and new talent Eddie Redmayne (now a Tony winner) as his assistant. It is all about art, passion, commercialism, selling out, egotism etc. It was wonderful, a very moving play, stunning set design, lighting design and sound. It felt sometimes like you were watching a film. Beautifully directed by Michael Grandage. The scene where the two prime the canvas in red paint was spine tingling. God I love moments like that, only theatre can do it. By the way, the actor Bill Irwin was sitting in the seat next to me. I was so glad I bought tickets weeks ago, it was a sell out on it’s 2nd last performance. Seeing it in the city it is set was a treat too, all the references just outside the theatre. Time for a trip to MOMA4. AMERICAN IDIOT

Well you know my feelings about this piece of crap

5. SOUTH PACIFIC

The hit revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Great production, tired after it’s almost 3 year run. I enjoyed it but didnt blow me away.

6. PROMISES, PROMISES.

Another revival, but this time new and with its first cast. It makes a difference. And what a cast! The sublime Kristin Chenoweth, wow, what a powerhouse dynamo. Big talent in a small package. Those who know me, know my feelings about Kristin, I adore her, I love her. Kristin! Kristin! Kristin!. And she didn’t disappoint.

Performing alongside her, actually, in the lead role, was the wonderful Sean Hayes, from TV’s Will & Grace. He has great comic timing. His physical comedy was fab as well, a particular moment with an Eames chaise lounge was inspired. He has a good singing voice, he was excellent.

Tony Goldwyn and Dick Latessa in support roles were also very good. But, the highlight was the amazing Katie Finneran as the drunk pick up that Sean Hayes meets in a bar. She took home the Tony for her 15 minutes of stage time, and she steals the show . She was hysterical, I laughed so much. I wish everyone could see her. Special mention to the singers and dancers, the gypsys all hand picked and superb. I gotta tell you, you need to see a first run cast, to really get what Broadway musicals are about.

The production was good, the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs are ok. The musical is not great to start with, so that is all I can fault.

Just to hear Kristin belt out the tunes, Sean ham it up, and the great Katie, made it a memorable experience.

7. THE OCTOROON: An Adaptation Of The Octoroon, Based On The Octoroon.

An off- broadway play, performed at an old public school , called Peformance Space 122.

Wanda & Doris’ lovely New York friends – Joan & Dominique cooked me dinner and took me along to see the show.

I am so glad I did the off- Broadway thing as well. This show didn’t disappoint.

It had a history of the original director leaving the production and the playwrite taking over. A turbulent beginning. Well all of that is interwoven into the play. Hard to explain, but very interesting W & D, I will explain when I see you both.

The play is an adaptation of a melodrama about slaves on a southern plantation. An insight into racism. The modern take is that the dialogue is very 2010, and it works!. It is a drama, that has had it’s own drama, and all is interwoven. Clever, and entertaining.

Was very sweet of the girls to take me along, good company, a good evening. Excellent!

So that is it so far. I think I can fit in another 2 or 3 shows before I leave on Wednesday. There is an open mike show on Monday that I think I will see. It is called Sondheim Unplugged. They have special guests that were original Sondheim show cast members. This week it is the original Johanna from Sweeney Todd.

Sadly there are 2 productions I wish I could see. One starts a week after I leave, the other in October (perhaps I must come back?)

here they are

Not to be poo pooed, a Lincoln Centre production and a good director.

A diva fest, so sad I will miss Stritchy in a show:(

I had better go, gotta get into the TKTS line.






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