Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sondheim on Sondheim

photo: Richard Termine

I love the music of Stephen Sondheim. I hate the revue format. Does that mean that Sondheim on Sondheim, James Lapine's multimedia amalgamation of some of the composer's greatest works, narrated by the man himself via videotape, would strike some healthy balance? Yes. No. Maybe. The production itself offers a handful of brilliant performers (among them Barbara Cook, one of the greatest living Sondheim interpreters) singing the master's songs with aplomb. Can you really complain about Ms Cook's delicate rendition of "Beautiful" from Sunday in the Park with George, or Vanessa Williams' fantastic and reading of "Ah, but Underneath" ? Or Euan Morton and Leslie Kritzer making a great case as to why they should be the only choices for Mary and Charley if and when Merrily We Roll Along is revived? Sadly, the main problem is the composer himself: The interviews with Sondheim don't really illuminate anything about the material, and most of the time you wish he'd shut up and let the music speak for itself. Which, of course, it does.

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