David Barbour at Lighting and Sound America: Lapine has… added Sondheim himself to the mix, using a series of video interviews to make him the narrator of his own career. These sequences are blunt, funny, and surprisingly honest. He speaks frankly about his parents’ troubled marriage and his fraught relationship with his mother. (He even includes the still-shocking story about the letter she wrote, on the eve of a minor medical procedure, all but disowning him)…. Sondheim also provides fascinating insights into the development of his shows…. Not everything works. Lapine doesn’t always seem to know what to do with Wopat, or with some of the younger performers…. (but) Sondheim on Sondheim succeeds by giving voice to the man we’ve been celebrating so strenuously this year.
Elysa Gardner at USA Today: What better birthday present could Stephen Sondheim receive than a chance to finally star in his own Broadway show? … Granted, Sondheim doesn’t appear on stage — at least, not in the flesh. But he’s seen and heard throughout, via large screens hanging over the stage, showing both new interview clips and archival footage. While a less gracious or articulate subject might have made this approach disastrous, Sondheim is a predictably witty, endearingly self-deprecating narrator who never seems stuffy or glib…. No Sondheim fan will be entirely satisfied with the lineup, which excludes both numerous classics and choice cult favorites. But like the musicals it culls from, the show uses songs to illustrate its themes and ideas, not merely to embellish them; certain gems were bound to be sacrificed in the process.
Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune: Deep into the second act of Sondheim on Sondheim, the unusual new Broadway docu-revue celebrating the life and works of you-know-who, Stephen Sondheim’s videographed self describes receiving a letter from his mother, late in her life. In her son’s telling, Janet scrawls that her biggest regret was, in fact, giving her son, Stephen, birth…. And from there, the actors turn from the screen and segue into the lyric, “Careful the things you say. Children will listen.” Previous Sondheim revues… have never packed that kind of emotional punch…. It is not easy for the performers to cohere as a throbbing ensemble, because the star of the show is not in the building. You wish he were. There is something about long stretches of video, even Sondheim-fueled video, that fight with the spontaneous essence of live theater. So it goes here.
Steven Suskin at the Variety: Songwriter anthology revues can be a tricky prospect, especially when you go back repeatedly to the same piano bench. The Sondheim songbook has been mined at least six times… with diminishing returns…. Leave it to James Lapine… to come up with a secret ingredient… the fascinating Stephen Sondheim himself…. Lapine finds the perfect way to use (Barbara Cook)…. The nominal co-stars are less successfully used…. Lapine has turned this video-heavy entertainment into a visual tour-de-force, with the large overhead screen suddenly and stunningly fragmented midway through the show, after which Sondheim comes at the aud from all angles.