Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sondheim on Sondheim

Photo: Joan Marcus

I wouldn't have thought that a show called Sondheim on Sondheim could be boring, but despite its generous selection of songs, this exploration of the great man's music is remarkably bland. The main problem is that two of the three people listed over the title don't have the interpretive skills to do justice to the songs they sing (hint: neither of them is Barbara Cook). The five other performers range from blah to excellent, but even the better ones are often stymied by overdone direction and uncomfortable staging. For example, the fluid "Opening Doors" is here completely fractured as the performers are made to repeatedly, pointlessly, march up and down a revolving set of slippery stairs. (One performer, wearing heels, looked scared for her life--or at least her ankles--every time she had to take those stairs.) Sondheim on Sondheim comes across as a not-particularly-good evening of one of the variety shows that used to be on TV a million years ago, with some nice singing but often painful "witty banter." Other than occasional moments of excellence (mostly when Cook is on stage), the show's one redeeming feature is the extensive footage of Sondheim talking about his life and his work. Note: I saw this at a preview and it's possible that the show has been improved since then. (I certainly hope so.)

No comments: