Sondheim on Sondheim
We were excited to see Roundabout’s new production Sondheim on Sondheim this past Saturday night. The musical stars Broadway legend Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat. We have not seen Vanessa Williams since the revival of “Into the Woods” and enjoyed Tom last season in “A Catered Affair.” We are a bit too young to have ever experienced Miss Cook but were excited nonetheless.
Well our excitement was definitely premature. The show features a bunch of moving screens that occasionally feature commentary from Mr. Sondheim himself talking about his shows and their conception. The biggest revelation being that he didn’t fall in love until he was 60 years old! The idea’s novelty wore off quite quickly though. What you are left with is a mish-mash of numbers without any relation to each other. One minute Sondheim’s talking about “West Side Story” while the next you’re listening to the First Act closing number from “Sunday in the Park with George.” Making matters worse, whomever selected the numbers that are performed kept out all the “hits” and instead features the obscure numbers from hit shows that won’t leave anyone humming the tunes out the door. Imagine the frustration you would feel going to your favorite performer’s concert and instead of the hits they performed the B sides.
Where was “Into the Woods,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Not While I’m Around,” “Maria,” “Tonight, Tonight,” and countless others? To add insult to injury, Sondheim’s biggest and only real mainstream hit “Send in the Clowns” is treated to a Youtube mash-up with performers from Barbara Streisand to Patti Labelle to some random 12 year old girl. No wonder Studio 54, the venue, was half empty after the Intermission.
The performances were universally excellent although we must admit we feared for Ms. Cook. Ms. Cook was in top voice, but she lumbered around the stage and was usually being escorted by one of the other performers, which made us feel she wasn’t quite up to the Broadway challenge. There is lots of Sondheim on Broadway including “West Side Story,” “A Little Night Music” and Encores upcoming “Anyone Can Whistle.” We recommend seeing one of these shows and skipping this one.