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Sondheim On Sondheim

Album Summary

>Sondheim, Stephen : Sondheim on Sondheim, revue
Notes & Reviews:

Personnel: Randy Cohen (keyboard programming).

Recording information: Avatar Studios, New York, New York (06/06/2010-06/07/2010).

Sean Patrick Flahaven, executive producer of this original cast recording of the 2010 Broadway musical revue Sondheim on Sondheim, begins his liner notes by pointing out that "There have been a wonderfully staggering 17 Broadway productions of Sondheim shows in the past 15 years...." Flahaven is not talking about new shows, however; the last time composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote the score for a new Broadway musical was in 1994. Those 17 productions are all revivals of Sondheim's old shows or, like Sondheim on Sondheim, musical anthologies of his work. That is a measure of the standing in which Sondheim, who turned 80 in 2010, is held among musical theater aficionados, and Sondheim on Sondheim is a show for them. Sondheim himself is heard (and, in the production, seen on film) discussing various aspects of his life and career, with the cast of eight (including the veterans Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, and Tom Wopat, plus five talented younger performers) illuminating his points by singing songs from his shows. Sondheim begins at the beginning, with his birth, but almost immediately he dismisses a strictly chronological narrative, declaring, "Let's skip around." That they do, to the extent that the show is not a musical autobiography so much as a series of anecdotes and observations punctuated by some of Sondheim's best songs. "This is not `And then I wrote .,'" Flahaven warns, and he's right, but, to a certain extent, it is "And then we cut ." because many of the songs were written for, but ultimately not used in, Sondheim musicals. For example, in the case of Company, an early version of "I Am Not Getting Married Today" called "The Wedding Is Off" is presented, and two unused tries at a finale, "Multitudes of Amys" and "Happily Ever After," precede the actual one, "Being Alive." Sondheim fans inevitably will note missing favorites, and there is no attempt at balancing the selections among his shows. In fact, if anything, an attempt seems to have been made to promote relatively obscure Sondheim musicals (perhaps in hope of inspiring revivals) at the expense of better-known ones. So, for example, there's nothing here from Sweeney Todd, but there are extensive excerpts, including two full productions numbers, from Merrily We Roll Along, which has not been revived on Broadway since it flopped in 1981. The cast album does not reflect exactly the show as it was performed on-stage. Two numbers from an unproduced 1951 musical, Climb High ("Talent/When I Get Famous") are included, even though they were cut from the show, while "Ah, But Underneath" from the 1987 revised version of Follies, a showcase for Williams, is not here. Also, although the album spreads across two CDs with extra room available, Sondheim's comments have been trimmed here and there; notably, a harsh memory about his mother has been deleted. That said, the album is generally a good audio representation of a show made for musical theater fans hungry for inside stories about a man who, as the only new song sardonically puts it, has been referred to as "God." ~ William Ruhlmann


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Works Details

>Sondheim, Stephen : Sondheim on Sondheim, revue
  • Running Time: 1 min. 37 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary