While Team Trump continues a facade of ‘fake news’ regarding the Donald’s many filed (and then dismissed) lawsuits in trying to re-litigate the 2020 election, Randy Rainbow lampoons White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and her constant assertions her boss “won” via Stephen Sondheim’s “Not Getting Married Today” from Company.
Rainbow’s rapid-fire satirical lyrics are seriously on point.
This definitely qualifies for a #ThrowbackThursday post 🙂
On Tuesday night, the theater world celebrated the 65th annual Obie Awards honoring the best of Off and Off-Off-Broadway in a most virtually virtuous night on the internet!
Viewers were treated to a special moment as members of the 1994 York Theatre Company revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along joined members of the original Broadway and 2019 Fiasco Theater revival casts for a special performance of “Our Time” in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the York production’s Obie Award wins.
Based on the 1934 play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the show chronicles the story of three friends from early adulthood to midlife – but in reverse.
The musical is about optimism, idealism, holding friends accountable and the fallout when those ideas collide as we journey through life.
As the show begins, we meet the three anti-heroes at difficult crossroads in their lives and their friendships. With each proceeding scene, the story is rewound ultimately arriving at their younger selves – lacking any cynicism and simply bursting with optimism about what lay ahead for them. But by then, we’ve seen the future.
“How did you get to be here? What was the moment?”
The original production opened (and closed) in 1981. I was a freshman musical theatre major at Syracuse University that fall, and even though we were hours away from New York City, the new show was very much on the minds of my fellow theater students as a recent graduate has scored the lead role of Franklin Shepard. A very, very big deal.
Unfortunately, in an almost ‘only in a musical’ twist, my fellow Syracuse alum was replaced before opening night.
Garnering brutal reviews, the show quickly closed. It was the first (and rare) critical failure among successful collaborations between Sondheim and Broadway director/producer Hal Prince (21 Tony Awards).
While the reverse storytelling reportedly confused the audience – even though each scene’s year was projected on a screen for the audience – the score has been almost universally lauded as “brilliant.”
It’s been revisited in several high profile productions over the years in the hope that the show might be ‘fixed.’ The show finally hit its stride with the original London production in 2001 winning 3 Laurence Olivier Awards including Best Musical. In 2014, the show would repeat that success at the Olivier Awards winning Best Revival of a Musical.
The song “Our Time” is what we would call the 11 o’clock number or emotional apex of the show.
Set on the roof of an apartment house in New York City in 1957, young Frank and Charley are staring at the nighttime sky waiting for a glimpse of the first-ever earth-orbiting satellite, Sputnik. During the scene, Mary, their neighbor, arrives to view the satellite and meets the boys for the first time.
Suddenly, Sputnik is there in the sky, and in that moment, for the young friends, anything seems possible.
Check out the moving virtual reunion of three casts of Merrily We Roll Along singing “Our Time.”
While the show didn’t survive its original 1981 incarnation, many of the young actors in that cast were – like the show’s subjects – just beginning.
Among them were future Broadway luminaries including future Tony Award winners Jason Alexander (Jerome Robbins’ Broadway) and Tonya Pinkins (Jelly’s Last Jam), as well as Tony Award nominee Liz Callaway (Baby, Miss Saigon, Cats), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul) and Jim Walton (42nd Street, Sweeny Todd).
In 2016, original cast member Lonny Price (Charley) directed the acclaimed documentary, Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, reuniting many of the 1981 cast members to reflect and remember the impact the show and its idealism had on the actors. I wrote about the film here.
It began with some tech problems, but when Broadway.com’s salute to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim – Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration – finally got underway it was truly a gift for musical theatre fans.
So many fantastic performances of Sondheim’s lengthy and rich catalog.
One of the highlights was easily Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald serving up a spectacular “The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company as a kind of Zoom cocktail hour. Donning white robes and pouring generous drinks, the approach was not only hilarious but solved the problem of trying to live up to Elaine Stritch’s legendary performance of the song.
In case you missed it, I’ve cued up Christine, Meryl and Audra’s brilliant performance below, but you can view the entire 2+ hour livestream below.
Other highlights include:
• Melissa Errico’s “Children and Art” (Sunday in the Park with George) was the picture of understated perfection at the 41:04 mark
• Mandy Patinkin, standing outside alone amid an enormous, empty grassy field, shared a moving a cappella “Lesson #8” (Sunday in the Park with George) at the 54:21 mark
• Laura Benanti – “I Remember” (Evening Primrose) at 1:08:28 mark
• Chip Zien, the original “Baker” (Into the Woods) was heartbreaking as he reprised his song “No More” at 1:14:06
• The event’s host, Raúl Esparza, sang a beautiful take on the event’s title song, “Take Me to the World” (Evening Primrose) at 1:50:59
• Donna Murphy’s poignant, pensive rendition of “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music) at the 1:53:55 mark
• Bernadette Peters closing out the event with a gorgeous, a cappella take on a song she didn’t sing in Into The Woods, “No One Is Alone” at 2:11:18
In truth, there are tons of terrific performances – I’m sure I’ll have missed mentioning something I loved. If you click here, you’ll find the full show with a complete breakdown of shortcuts to each individual performance.
Stay with it to the end as there’s a much fun postscript to the shindig with the song “Broadway Baby” from Follies.
A starry line-up of Broadway favorites are toasting Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday with a once-in-a-lifetime concert event live on Broadway.com titled, ‘Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration.’
As I was planning this post, I realized how much I admired Sondheim’s incredible talent, but how much his work impacted my own career in theater.
The first musical I ever appeared in was one of the greatest musicals ever written – Gypsy (lyrics by Sondheim). I earned my actor’s union card in a gorgeous production of West Side Story (lyrics by Sondheim).
Over the next couple of decades, I appeared in productions of Into The Woods (score by Sondheim), more West Side Story (playing about every Jet you can think of), and more.
And the last Broadway production I appeared in was the 2001 revival of his masterpiece Follies starring Blythe Danner, Treat Williams, Judith Ivey and Gregory Harrison – a joyful experience from beginning to end.
So, yes, I’ll definitely be watching tonight’s event.
Hosted by Raul Esparza the Broadway-palooza will feature musical performances by:
Iain Armitage • Annaleigh Ashford • Christine Baranski • Laura Benanti • Michael Cerveris • Melissa Errico • Beanie Feldstein • Sutton Foster • Maria Friedman • Alexander Gemignani • Josh Groban • Jake Gyllenhaal • Ann Harada • Neil Patrick Harris • Austin Ku • Judy Kuhn • Linda Lavin • Katrina Lenk • Kelvin Moon Loh • Patti LuPone • Lin-Manuel Miranda • Audra McDonald • Brian Stokes Mitchell • Donna Murphy • Kelli O’Hara • Mandy Patinkin • Bernadette Peters • Ben Platt • Randy Rainbow • Lea Salonga • Stephen Schwartz • Thom Sesma • Elizabeth Stanley • Meryl Streep • Aaron Tveit • Brandon Uranowitz • Chip Zien
Deadline reports a cavalcade of stars will take part in Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, a virtual 90th birthday celebration for legendary Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim
Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, and many more are scheduled to appear on Sunday, April 26, which just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the opening night of Sondheim’s iconic musical, Company.
The streaming event will be hosted by Raúl Esparza beginning at 8 pm ET and will be available for free at Broadway.com and the Broadway.com YouTube channel.
Esparza has a long history with Sondheim’s work having starred as Bobby in the Tony Award-winning revival of Company in 2006, as George in the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration productions of Sunday in the Park and as Charlie in Merrily We Roll Along in 2002. Additionally, he starred in City Center’s Encores! productions of Anyone Can Whistle and last year’s Road Show.
“The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great,” says Esparza in a statement. “Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified. So, we’ve assembled a group of people who love Steve and have worked with Steve and have been inspired by Steve to sing his music and share some joy and some heartache together. We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us. Besides, Stephen Sondheim turned 90. How many times do you get to be 90? 11? So come on, say it, get it over with, come on, quick…happy birthday.”
Mary-Mitchell Campbell will be the music director, with Paul Wontorek serving as director.
This online event will act as a fundraiser for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), the organization conceived by Campbell and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth through art.
Furniture store Ethan Allen features a jazzy/pop version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Putting It Together” in its new commercial and apparently it blew Tony Award-winner Ben Platt’s mind.
I’m sorry but has anyone seen the Ethan Allen commercial that uses a pop version of Putting it Together from Sunday in the Park with George because it just came on my TV and I thought I was having a stroke
I’m watching reports of the huge snow dump in upstate New York today making me wistful. In the fall of 1981, I began my college years as a freshman at Syracuse University.
Aspiring to become a Broadway actor, the Syracuse University Musical Theatre program was one of the very best in the country at the time. I was lucky to be there.
As I began classes that autumn, the professors informed us all exactly how lucky – a recent graduate Jim Weissenbach had snagged the leading role in the upcoming Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince Broadway musical, Merrily We Roll Along.
Sondheim and Prince were on a decade long roll of critical hits on Broadway including Company, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd.
Hal Prince (L) and Stephen Sondheim (R)
Well, of course, we all followed the news of what we expected to be the soon-to-be hit. Not only was it Sondheim (I mean, SONDHEIM!) but the show was about three idealistic young people whose story is told backward.
Beginning with the audience meeting their older, cynical selves, the production journeys back to land at their beginning as dreamy, starry-eyed teens.
Yesterday is done / See the pretty countryside Merrily we roll along, roll along – bursting with dreams. Travelings’ the fun / Flashing by the countryside Everybody merrily, merrily – catching at dreams Rolling along, rolling along
How much more relatable could this have been?
But just a few weeks into the fall semester came the crushing news at SU that Weissenbach had been replaced in previews. More negative rumors began making their way through the NYC (and Syracuse University) theater gossip as it was reported that audiences were walking out. Among various issues, the reverse chronology was difficult for theater-goers to grasp.
Ultimately, the show ran for 52 previews and only 16 now-infamous performances before closing.
But the SCORE! The score was incredible. Complex in its cynicism, boundless in its youthful optimism. You probably know the standout, achingly beautiful “Not A Day Goes By” from the show. If not, please run over to iTunes and check out the original Broadway cast recording here.
Being the same age as the characters in the musical, and living vicariously through those young actors in NYC, I and my classmates were forever marked by the musical’s ineffable glory.
Now, original cast member and acclaimed actor/director, Lonny Price has directed a documentary taking a long look at both the euphoria and disappointments of the one in a lifetime experience.
One of the truly legendary musicals in the history of Broadway, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG opened to enormous fanfare in 1981 and closed after sixteen performances.
For the first time, BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED draws back the curtain on the extraordinary drama of the show’s creation – and tells the stories of the hopeful young performers whose lives were transformed by it.
Directed by Lonny Price, a member of the original cast, the film is a bittersweet meditation on the choices we all make, and the often unexpected consequences of those choices — through success and failure. Featuring exclusive appearances by Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Jason Alexander, Mandy Patinkin, Adam Guettel, Frank Rich and the original Broadway cast of MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.
The documentary has garnered strong reviews at film festivals, and is playing now in NYC and opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle’s Royal Theatre (1523 Santa Monica Blvd.) this Friday.
I will definitely be making a point of seeing this.
Something is stirring, Shifting ground
It’s just begun.
Edges are blurring, All around
And yesterday is done.