Crazy Concepts for Classic Shows: the Sondheim Edition



Sometimes “crazy concepts” – ideas that attempt to breathe new life in to classic musicals – make it all the way into production. Although some of these concepts are not necessarily “crazy”, but merely unconventional, here are a couple done for Stephen Sondheim musicals that certainly fall into the “crazy” category. These come courtesy of a poster at Musicals Dot Net, known as “Annie”:

I went to the Stephen Sondheim conversation with Frank Rich at Lincoln Center in January… and they spoke/laughed briefly about some crazy productions of his shows that have been done…:

Sondheim: I heard about some university on the west coast doing Company and having Bobby commit suicide at the end.

Rich: So much for “Being Alive”.

Sondheim: *laughs for ages*

One wishes so that proper transcripts of these discussions with Frank Rich were readily available. The closest thing I could find for this particular session was in the “Showtime!” blog at BroadwayWorld, which has it as follows:

Michael Dale wrote:
“Then there was a production of Company where Bobby shot himself at the end.” (Rich’s response: “He shot himself after ‘Being Alive’?”)

The anecdote is a lovely one and, of course, one wonders what the director thought was illuminated in the show itself by his/her concept, particularly with such a glaring inconsistency at the end of the show. I guess it was meant to be ironic…

Annie wrote:
Sondheim… also heard about a production of Merrily We Roll Along that they did backwards.

And, rightfully so, he was completely offended by it:

Stephen Sondheim wrote:
Hofstra College once played Merrily backwards. We didn’t find out until it was over or else we would have been there with the sheriff and shotguns.

What a bizarre choice, especially for a college, where one would assume that unconventionally styled (musical) theatre has a place even if it does not have one anywhere else!

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