Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sondheim! A Birthday Celebration

Watch the full episode. See more Great Performances.

I watched the Sondheim! Birthday Concert earlier this summer on Netflix streaming - and while this isn't really supposed to be a review, it was too long for a Facebook status post, so I shifted it over here & expanded it. The concert was filled with amazing performances of some of Stephen Sondheim's best music by top Broadway stars.

I know that a number of the folks who follow my blog probably don't know Stephen Sondheim from a hole in a wall - so, here's some bullet points just for you:
  • Unless you're a musical theater devotee, you probably haven't heard much of his music - except for a bunch of insipid re-recordings of "Send in the Clowns"... a song that doesn't make much sense yanked from the context of the musical it was written for, A Little Night Music. (He also wrote much of the lyrics for West Side Story - but didn't write the music.)
  • Oddly enough, A Little Night Music is the only Sondheim musical I've ever seen in a theater.
  • He is probably the most influential living Broadway composer... even though most of his shows had short runs in their original productions (Merrily We Roll Along - a personal favorite - was only on Broadway two weeks).
  • On the other hand, his shows are revived over & over - and often in productions of amazing quality.
Now, the following details won't mean much unless you're a fan of the American musical theater and/or Mr. Sondheim...

There was a LOT of Follies - though I could do without watching E. Stritch & "I'm Still Here", as it seems to show up on every Sondheim tribute. OTOH, having John McMartin (the original Ben from Follies) sing "The Road You Didn't Take" - wow.

Note: if you haven't heard Sondheim before, don't come expecting a hoe-down. (obligatory Sports Night reference) The music is sophisticated, the lyrics are intelligent... but the stories they serve are often dark. And when I say dark, I mean that they can be downright depressing.

Performances on the video (I've bolded the ones I really enjoyed):

  • "America" (Dancers, West Side Story)
  • "Something's Coming" (Alexander Gemingnani, West Side Story)
  • "We're Gonna Be Alright" (Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, Do I Hear a Waltz?)
  • "Don't Laugh" (Victoria Clark, Hot Spot)
  • "Johanna"(Nathan Gunn, Sweeney Todd)
  • "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" and "Love Will See Us Through" (Matt Cavenaugh, Jenn Colella, Laura Osnes, Bobby Steggert, Follies)
  • "Too Many Mornings" (Nathan Gunn, Audra McDonald, Follies)
  • "The Road You Didn't Take" (John McMartin, Follies)
  • "It Takes Two" (Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Into the Woods)
  • "Growing Up" (Jim Walton, Merrily We Roll Along)
  • "Finishing the Hat" (Mandy Patinkin, Sunday in the Park with George)
  • "Move On" (Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Sunday in the Park with George)
  • "Pretty Women" (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Sweeney Todd)
  • "A Little Priest" (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd)
  • "Theme from Reds" with Pas De Deux (NY Philharmonic, Two ABT Dancers Maria and Blaine)
  • "So Many People" (Laura Benanti, Saturday Night)
  • "Beautiful Girls" (David Hyde Pierce, Follies)
  • "Ladies Who Lunch" (Patti LuPone, Company)
  • "Losing My Mind" (Marin Mazzie, Follies)
  • "The Glamorous Life" (Audra McDonald, A Little Night Music)
  • "Could I Leave You?" (Donna Murphy, Follies)
  • "Not a Day Goes By" (Bernadette Peters, Merrily We Roll Along)
  • "I'm Still Here" (Elaine Stritch, Follies)
  • "Sunday" (Broadway Chorus, Sunday in the Park with George)
  • "Happy Birthday" (All Cast)

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