Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sondheim: The Birthday Concert

Photo: New York Philharmonic, Richard Termine

So, is this the Sondheim celebration that Roundabout is doing? No. Is it the one at City Center? No. Is it overkill that so many Sondheim celebrations are being done? NO! The work of Stephen Sondheim is endlessly fascinating, complex, and surprising, and when some of the most talented people on earth perform it, the result is theatrical nirvana. This two-night celebration at the New York Philharmonic added the luxury (and nowadays it is a luxury, alas) of hearing Sondheim's music played by a full orchestra, allowing the expression of the full color, texture, and beauty of his work. In an evening of so many highlights that it was almost overwhelming, some of the super-highlights for me included Marin Mazzie's "Losing My Mind," simultaneously luscious and pointed; Audra McDonald and Nathan Gunn's "Too Many Mornings," gorgeously sung by both of them and gorgeously acted by her; Mandy Patinkin's "Finishing the Hat," hyperintense yet just right; John McMartin's "The Road You Didn't Take," a master class in song acting; and Patinkin and Bernadette Peters' recreation of "Move On," as heartfelt and touching as ever. The show ended with hundreds of performers singing "Sunday" on stage and in the aisles and balconies, which was nothing short of glorious. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, "when a person is tired of Sondheim, that person is tired of life."

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