Sondheim on Sondheim

I’m in New York and I just saw Sondheim on Sondheim last night.  OK, the show isn’t for everyone, but my golly it does pack a big punch for those who worship at the Church of St. Stephen.  (In fact, there’s even the second act opener, a newly penned song by where SJS acknowledges his place in the musical theater firmament.  It’s called “God”.)

The highlights of the show are when Barbara Cook comes out and nails a Sondheim ballad.  On the one hand I’ll admit that these moments and songs are somewhat interchangeable.  But who cares?  It’s musical theater bliss to hear her do all this material, and at the end of the show she sings a definitive Send in the Clowns.  (Oh, the irony of the fact that she was the one who introduced the problematic Catherine Zeta-Jones version on the Tony’s!)

The hagiography is rounded out with cleverly-deployed video clips of St. Stephen.  Nothing new here, but interesting and occasionally moving, nevertheless.

There’s a clever balance of other elements in the show:  the sizzlingly deployed Vanessa Williams; the slickness and mega-talent of Norm Lewis contrasted to the slight cluelessness of Tom Wopat; the balance of show recreations and re-thought numbers; the medley of first-act closers; an ensemble of performers including Euan Morton and Leslie Kritzer that could each individually carry  a show.

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