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Anodos

Stephen Sondheim

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Anodos   

I only got into Sondheim a couple of years ago. So far I've seen:

 

Sweeney Todd - only the movie, which is better than I'd expected. Not perfect, and rather too grim for my taste, but still impressive.

 

Into The Woods - a taping of the original Broadway production. I enjoyed it a lot, although the show does fade somewhat in the second act.

 

Company - video of the 2005 Broadway revival, also the Neil Patrick Harris one from 2011. Interesting conceit, although it did seem rather dated - as though it was trying too hard to be edgy and daring at the time. (Something which often lets art down in the long run, I find...) Still has some great songs and usual Sondheim wit.

 

Sunday In The Park With George - video of the original show with Mandy Patinkin. Now this is difficult - I think I loved the idea of it more than the actual work itself. Definitely I thought the second act (again) was struggling with too much ambition and not enough purpose. I must watch it again. Anyway, Finishing The Hat became one of my all-time favourite songs. One of the best descriptions of artistic endeavour/absorption...

 

I know some of these have separate threads, but I'd like a general Sondheim thread - primarily because I would love any recommendations for other shows and/or different versions of the ones I've already seen. Plus discussions and arguments, of course!

 

And yes, I know it's probably best to see the shows live in theatre, but I've been unlucky with timing so far. Hope to catch one soon.

 

In closing, here's a great excerpt from the BBC Proms' concert celebrating Sondheim's 80th birthday:

I would definitely recommend the whole concert if you can get hold of it. Such a difference hearing the songs with a full orchestra.

Edited by Anodos

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NBooth   

I saw a filmed version of the Company revival a few years back and it quickly became one of my favorite musicals. I can see where it might be trying too hard, but there's a fundamental humanity at its core that I find very appealing. 

 

Sweeney Todd rocks, natch.

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Anodos   

I saw a filmed version of the Company revival a few years back and it quickly became one of my favorite musicals. I can see where it might be trying too hard, but there's a fundamental humanity at its core that I find very appealing. 

 

Sweeney Todd rocks, natch.

Was that the one with Raul Esparza - the one where the actors were also the musical ensemble? That's the first one I saw, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea. Esparza was very good, I thought - better than Neil Patrick Harris, who seemed too detached and playing too much for laughs. Was very impressed by Christina Hendricks in the 2011 film, though - had no idea she had such a sweet voice.

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It's a shame that FOLLIES is revived so rarely. I always vacillate between FOLLIES and SWEENEY TODD as my pick for Sondheim's best. The recent Broadway revival got it spectacularly right (largely because they returned to the original book by James Goldman, rather than the uninspired, revised versions that have served as the foundation for most of the revivals). When it's in good form, it's a knockout.

 

And while it tends to be regarded as one of Sondheim's lesser works, I have a soft spot for PASSION.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Anodos   

Follies is one I've heard of but don't actually know anything about. I'll take a look.

 

And Passion was revived in London at the Donmar, but I missed it. Bleurgh.

Edited by Anodos

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Evan C   

Sunday is my favorite musical period.  I think Sweeney Todd is better constructed (I would go so far as to say the stage production is the only flawless work of musical theatre,) but Sunday resonates with me more a on a personal level, which is why I slightly prefer it.  I also have a soft spot for Assassins although that tends to be regarded as one of Sondheim's lesser works.

 

You need to check out: Follies and A Little Night Music (based on Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night).

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Anodos   

Sunday is my favorite musical period.  I think Sweeney Todd is better constructed (I would go so far as to say the stage production is the only flawless work of musical theatre,) but Sunday resonates with me more a on a personal level, which is why I slightly prefer it.  I also have a soft spot for Assassins although that tends to be regarded as one of Sondheim's lesser works.

 

You need to check out: Follies and A Little Night Music (based on Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night).

I have TRIED to see A Little Night Music, but alas no luck. It was staged in the West End four years ago, before I'd got into Sondheim, and who knows when it will appear again. Are there any good filmed versions of it? I've looked, but with no success.

 

And yes, I would also say I prefer Sunday to Sweeney Todd while thinking the latter a superior work. Subjective preference over objective quality... And Mandy Patinkin was superb in the role.

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Evan C   

I have TRIED to see A Little Night Music, but alas no luck. It was staged in the West End four years ago, before I'd got into Sondheim, and who knows when it will appear again. Are there any good filmed versions of it? I've looked, but with no success.

Someone uploaded an entire recording of the 1990 Lincoln Opera House production to youtube in segments. I thought that was a very good version (especially Danielle Ferland in the role of Fredrika). And stay away from the '70's film adaptation; it's not that good.

Part 1 of the stage production is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SK8U3qEoazk

 

And yes, I would also say I prefer Sunday to Sweeney Todd while thinking the latter a superior work. Subjective preference over objective quality... And Mandy Patinkin was superb in the role.

Well, I *slightly* prefer Sunday. I think both musicals are the two finest works of musical theatre.

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NBooth   

 

I saw a filmed version of the Company revival a few years back and it quickly became one of my favorite musicals. I can see where it might be trying too hard, but there's a fundamental humanity at its core that I find very appealing. 

 

Sweeney Todd rocks, natch.

Was that the one with Raul Esparza - the one where the actors were also the musical ensemble? That's the first one I saw, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea. Esparza was very good, I thought - better than Neil Patrick Harris, who seemed too detached and playing too much for laughs. Was very impressed by Christina Hendricks in the 2011 film, though - had no idea she had such a sweet voice.

 

 

That was the one.

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Someone uploaded an entire recording of the 1990 Lincoln Opera House production to youtube in segments. I thought that was a very good version (especially Danielle Ferland in the role of Fredrika).

My affection for that version of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is due entirely to Regina Resnik's tremendous interpretation of "Liasons." On my honeymoon, I saw the Broadway revival with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury. The staging was a bit bland, but the performances were generally strong.

The movie version of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is pretty rubbish, though at least it has the incomparable Diana Rigg, who delivers an unbeatable rendition of "Every Day a Little Death":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Xy_-Q9rRk

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Evan C   

Someone uploaded an entire recording of the 1990 Lincoln Opera House production to youtube in segments. I thought that was a very good version (especially Danielle Ferland in the role of Fredrika).

My affection for that version of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is due entirely to Regina Resnik's tremendous interpretation of "Liasons."

I saw the Lincoln Opera version shortly after seeing the '70's film. It looked REALLY good in comparison.

 

The movie version of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is pretty rubbish, though at least it has the incomparable Diana Rigg, who delivers an unbeatable rendition of "Every Day a Little Death"

Yes, that might be my favorite recording of the song.

No one delivers "Love's disGUHsting, love's insane" as well as Rigg.

Edited by Evan C

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benthere   

A filmed version of the West End production of Merrily We Roll Along (directed by Maria Friedman) is playing in selected US movie theaters on Wednesday, 10/23. I live near Chicago and there are many theaters showing it, but for one night only.

Edited by benthere

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Evan C   

I enjoy Merrily We Roll Along quite a bit.  It's not one of Sondheim's best show by any stretch, although I think it's better than many people give it credit for.  And the score is very strong for a show with a rather weak book.

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Anodos   

This summer I've been on a bit of a Sondheim-fest, kickstarted when I picked up a second hand copy of the biography Stephen Sondheim: A Life, by Meryle Secrest. I'm not a big fan of biographies in general, because too often I've found them to have some underlying agenda or idee fixe which dominates the work. I much prefer autobiography, however unreliable...

 

However, I did find this book useful - it gave me a good structured overview of Sondheim's work in chronological order, and some insight into how his techniques and interests had shifted and expanded or intensified over his career.

 

So yes - I've been forging my way through Sondheim's oeuvre with great delight; I know some people accuse him of being cold/intellectual/detached/ironic/unhummable, etc. - but I've received an immense amount of sheer pleasure from his work, and not just intellectual appreciation; some of his work is dry, but much more is very funny, or frightening, or emotional. His main theme is yearning, which is something I definitely understand.

 

I might come back to this thread with my comments on various shows and the different versions I'm watching/listening to.

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