According to the Roundabout Theatre Blog, the project that was once known as iSondheim will now be produced as Sondheim on Sondheim on Broadway later this season. Conceived and directed by James Lapine, the ‘new original Broadway musical’ will star Barbara Cook and Vanessa Williams, also featuring Michael Arden and Leslie Kritzer.
Do my ears deceive me? Is Roundabout actually billing this revue as a ‘new original Broadway musical’ as Todd Haimes says in this release? Personally, I’m not particularly interested in seeing yet another Sondheim revue, but that is what this is. What’s supposed to shove this this stand head and shoulders above the rest is that it will use ‘high-tech multimedia’ to look at ‘Stephen Sondheim’s personal life and artistic process, with exclusive interview footage’ and ‘brand-new arrangements of over two dozen Sondheim songs’, which basically makes it a high-tech update of Side by Side by Sondheim. While I’d love to see the interview footage, the idea of yet another (Sondheim) revue doesn’t enthrall me as much as a full scale revival or a decent film documentary with archival performance clips using the same interview footage would.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh here, but my main beef with this show is the way that Roundabout is trying to sell it. To call it a ‘new original Broadway musical’ is inaccurate and misleading and this kind of classification has its own ramifications: come Tony Award time, this show and its performers are going to duke it out with real musicals and actors who are performing roles rather than interpreting songs cabaret-style for awards in the categories related to musical theatre when they actually do not even deserve the nominations there. I am absolutely opposed to this show getting a nod in the “Best Musical” category, which is how I feel about other revues that have been nominated and even won in that category as well as other shows that are not musicals that have cracked a nod there, like Contact (which won in a season where real musicals like The Wild Party and James Joyce’s The Dead – which were nominated – and Marie Christine and (the admittedly weak) Aïda – which weren’t – should have been the serious contenders for the award). Just because it’s a revue about Sondheim, of whose work I am a fan, doesn’t change the principle for me. This is the kind of show for which the “Special Theatrical Event” award was ideal and it would have been the only place where Sondheim on Sondheim deserved to have a shot at a Tony Award.
I’m sorry if I offend any “Malicious Sondheimists” out there but this whole thing rubs me the wrong way. And I can’t think of many Sondheim songs that would benefit from new arrangements.
I was watching Sweeney Todd last night and thought to myself, “OMG, they touch these orchestrations and I will lose all faith.” What’s with this trend nowadays where everything original is “old and boring.” Why not remember/showcase his work as it was when it was at its peak and in its acclaimed original form?
As much as it may seem I’m the biggest purist who’s ever lived, I’m not. You won’t believe how much I welcome change, but it just so happens, nowadays, they’re changing everything that didn’t need change in the first place. It’s done for the wrong reasons and, as a result, the art suffers.
I’m pretty much in absolute agreement with you, though I’d like to see the interview footage.
I’ve seen the show twice and I love it. It introduced me to a number of songs I didn’t know before and i thought it was very clever how Sondheim spoke throughout the show via a monitor of pre-taped footage. Hearing certain sound clips before certain songs changed the meaning of the song and how it related to Sondheim’s life. I thought it was quite smart.