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Archive for Stephen Sondheim


Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Terry Morgan – ArtsBeat LA

As part of its “Sondheim Celebration” this year, the Pasadena Playhouse has a new production of Sunday, but although it is professionally done and largely enjoyable, a couple of issues in direction and performance keep this show from being everything it could be…

Alabado is terrific as Dot, an appealing combination of petulance and passion, and charming as the contented Marie. She sets the standard for singing high with the titular first number, and impresses throughout, especially in her duet with Phillips, “We Do Not Belong Together.” Phillips, unfortunately, while a good vocalist, seems mainly to be trying to copy Mandy Patinkin’s original performance in the role, and as a result doesn’t bring as much to the character as he might. Standouts in the great ensemble include Emily Tyra as Yvonne, the artist’s wife secretly jealous of Dot, and Liz Larsen as the Old Lady, whose tart delivery of her peevish character’s lines are delightful. Read more…

Peter Debruge – Variety

In the first act, Sondheim and Lapine’s musical focuses on the young painter, whose name they’ve anglicized to “George” (which rather unfortunately sounds like a goose honking, especially when repeated at the end of every line: “I know you’re near, George / I caught your eyes, George / I want your ear, George / I’ve a surprise, George”). Seurat died at age 31, never having sold a painting, and the show does several interesting things with a life that went largely unrecorded. Read more…

Rob Stevens – Haines His Way

Although the musical aspects of the production are top notch, there are problems with the staging by Lapine. The show basically still just feels like an upscale concert version of the musical. Ken Billington’s lighting design paints wonderful colors and Clint Ramos’s costumes are appropriate. The main problem is Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design. There is not much to it—mostly a scrim that acts as a screen for Tal Yarden’s projections. The orchestra is on stage and probably takes up at least half of the playing space. Boritt’s platform has a few steps up from stage level and it is disconcerting to watch people who are supposed to be in “a small suburban park on an island in the river” keep stepping up and down to enter or exit. The platform can barely hold the entire company and so it just looks overcrowded at times, especially for the Act One finale. Without a hint of scenery, instead of a breath-taking realization of the painting coming together, we just get a crowd of people on a platform. Read more…

Katie Buenneke – Theatre Digest

I had never seen this Sondheim classic before, but I’m glad I got to see it now. Some Sondheim shows are, I think, like Brussels sprouts; you might not like or appreciate them when you’re younger, and they have to be impeccably prepared to be palatable when you’re older. I don’t know that I’ll ever love this show, but I think this production, which I liked plenty, is as close as I’ll get (I’m more of a Company and Merrily We Roll Along gal). Read more…

COMPANY at Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Photo courtesy of Long Beach Playhouse

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw, Notes From Arden

When it debuted on Broadway in 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company (book by George Furth) rattled both social and theatrical sensibilities. Imagine having a boy-meets girls scenario where the boy, Robert (Cris Cortez), starts and ends the musical single. Why? He just doesn’t see the point of marriage and/or he’s unable to connect/commit. Psychotherapy meets existential ennui as another institution (marriage) bites the dust. Or is something else going on?

Robert, or Bobby as he’s frequently called, is a kind of theatrical cipher. Even Hamlet, still attending university (Bobby opens the play celebrating his 35th birthday) is far younger, more depressed and agitated than Bobby. Like Bobby, Hamlet waltzes through his play sabotaging his most intimate relationships, but at least the reasons for his behavior are evident, and he eventually does something about it. Bobby, however, just swirls among five hetero married couples, who each in their respective ways tries to get him to settle down, grow up and get married – as most people felt compelled to do 50-plus years ago. Read more…

Now through August 7


Photo by Randy Lopez

Photo by Randy Lopez

Steven Leigh Morris – Stage Raw

Originally conceived and directed by James Lapine for a brief Broadway stint in 2010, this revue of Stephen Sondheim’s life and work received a new charge of pertinence in the wake of Sondheim’s death in November at the age of 91. The show includes a strong video presence of the composer-lyricist via interviews for the Broadway production plus prior interviews on various TV outlets. In many ways, these interviews are the show’s highlight, providing context for the potpourri of Sondheim’s songs across the spectrum of half a century of Broadway theater. Read more…

Now through June 5




Don Shirley – Angeles Stage

Sondheim was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. Old Sondheim was as dead as a doornail.

Yes, those words were inspired by the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol,” but no, I’m not suggesting that Stephen Sondheim was like Scrooge’s ex-partner Jacob Marley — other than the fact that both Sondheim and “Marley” are now…dead.
Read more…


SWEENEY TODD at South Coast Repertory

Jordan Kubat/SCR

Jordan Kubat/SCR

Ellen Dostal – Musicals in L.A.

Done right, the first notes of a musical will tell you exactly what kind of world you’re stepping into. When it comes to the masters, Stephen Sondheim does it better than just about anyone.For Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, all it takes is one crashing dissonant organ chord spitting hellfire and damnation, followed by another, and then another, to let the audience know this is not a musical about redemption. It’s about revenge.

The South Coast Repertory production of Sweeney Todd led by director Kent Nicholson and musical director David O. shrewdly hits its marks by reveling in both the sensationalism of its Penny Dreadful-inspired story and the warped charm of its irresistibly gruesome humor. Nicholson allows his actors the freedom to play the broad music hall style of comedy to its fullest yet never loses sight of its darker undercurrents. Read more…

Now running through February 16



(Photo by Chelsea Sutton)

(Photo by Chelsea Sutton)

Katie Buenneke – Stage Raw

When thinking about prolific composer Stephen Sondheim’s canon, it’s easy to forget about A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It’s one of his early works, overshadowed by later shows like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and Company. But the easiest way to differentiate it is through its utter lack of cynicism. A Funny Thing is just that — a funny thing.
Read more…

Now running through December 31


ASSASSINS at the Pico Playhouse

Photo by Will Adashek

Photo by Will Adashek

Paul Birchall  – Stage Raw

In the 4th century B.C., a villainous thug, Herostratus, set fire to the tomb of Artemis. His reason?  He had been a nonentity his entire life, and by committing this crime, he knew he would be remembered.  Of course, the Greek judges, in their wisdom, executed him, and passed a law forbidding his name ever being mentioned again… Read more…

Now running through September 27.

MARRY ME A LITTLE at the Lillian Theatre


Les Spindle –  Edge on the Net

First presented in 1980, “Marry Me a Little” offers an entertaining compilation of songs by master composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, which he originally wrote for other musicals. Each song was dropped, for one reason or another, from its premiere production. Read more…

Now running through June 28.


Sweeney 2

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

There’s such an assortment of riches in this stellar rendering of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler’s operatic musical that I can only begin by commending director Kristin Towers-Rowles. She’s brought together a superb ensemble, equally impressive musically and in dramatic performance. It’s an accomplishment all the more notable for being produced in such a small venue. Read more…

Now running through May 10.

COMPANY at the Scherr Forum Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza


Les Spindle –  Edge on the Net

Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking 1970 musical, “Company,” about romance and loneliness in the big city, remains a quintessential snapshot of the era in which it bowed, as viewed through the eyes of a commitment-phobic young bachelor. Read more…

Jonas Schwartz -  Arts In LA

Launching a version of Company, Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking 1970s musical, is a daunting task. The script focuses on Bobby, a passive character who observes his friends’ marriages. It requires a compelling actor who fills the vessel that Sondheim and his librettist George Furth had forged. Read more…

Now running through February 8.


INTO THE WOODS – Oregon Shakespeare Company at the Wallis Theatre

Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Company

Photo courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Company

Pauline Adamek  – Stage Raw

What follows the “happily ever after” conclusion of most fairy tales? That’s what composer-songwriter Stephen Sondheim and book-writer James Lapine examine in their sophisticated 1986 Broadway musical based on Grimm’s fairy tails and composed expressly for adults. (Lapine directed the musical’s eventual debut on Broadway, after it premiered at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre.) Read more…

Dany Margolies  -  Arts In LA

“I wish.” So begins this Stephen Sondheim–James Lapine musical. Fairy-tale characters express their most-fervent desires. Cinderella wants to stop cleaning out the fireplace and instead go to the king’s festival. Jack wants his ultra-beloved cow to give milk so his mother won’t make him sell this pet. The Baker and the Baker’s Wife want a real-life bun in the oven. And so each wishes aloud. em>Read more…

Now running through December 21.

INTO THE WOODS at Plummer Auditorium


Photo by Issac James Creative

Bob Verini -   Arts In LA

3D Theatricals has been pulling off ambitious offerings in its spacious Plummer Auditorium digs in Fullerton. I wasn’t able to catch 2013’s acclaimed Parade, though early this year I thoroughly enjoyed a fresh and clever The Producers. The Dawsons—the family who are the 3 D’s—seem to be smart, well-funded, and committed to revisiting musicals with integrity, taste, and talent, characteristics amply present in their current offering of James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Read more…

Now running through May 18.