Fractured fairy tales shine in stripped-down Woods

Mar 09

Fractured fairy tales shine in stripped-down <i>Woods</i>

You've journeyed Into the Woods, but you haven't ever been into these woods.

When great musicals are revived, the first question has to be: why? Is it going to be another retread of a successful prior production? Or will it be a reinvention, a new take for a new time? Happily the latter is the case with the glorious Fiasco Theater re-imagining of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Into the Woods.

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Music makes good Company at SF Playhouse

Jul 17

Music makes good <i>Company</i> at SF Playhouse

Robert (Keith Pinto, center) suffers his friends and their attempts to fix him up Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s 1970 musical Company now at San Francisco Playhouse. Below: Amy (Monique Hafen) continues to have second thoughts as her fiancé Paul (John Paul Gonzalez) stands by. Photos by Jessica Palopoli The summer musical Company at San Francisco...

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Ladies’ night at ACT’s Music

May 28

Ladies’ night at ACT’s <i>Music</i>

In the 1970s, Stephen Sondheim was on some kind of roll. From Company to Follies to Pacific Overtures to Sweeney Todd, the decade found at the peak of his considerable powers. He was – and is – a musical theater superhero, but in the midst of all that musical and lyrical genius, he dropped a nearly perfect show that was at once a classic musical – operetta almost – and completely contemporary.

A Little Night Music is a dazzling combination of light and funny, clever and romantic with sharp and incisive, deep and dark. The show has elegance and a light touch with an undercurrent of regret, sorrow and misery to keep it from floating away.

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Judy Collins warbles Sondheim

Mar 01

Judy Collins warbles Sondheim

It's only logical that Judy Collins would end up doing a show devoted to the songs of Stephen Sondheim. The legendary American singer is, after all, the only one to deliver Sondheim an actual radio hit. Her version of his "Send in the Clowns" (from A Little Night Music) is his only radio hit – it was on the Billboard charts for 11 weeks in 1975, peaking at No. 36. Then, rather amazingly, Collins' recording charted again in 1977, peaking at No 19. The recording also nabbed a Grammy for song of the year.

Some three decades later, Collins, more gorgeous than ever at 75, is parlaying her success with "Clowns" into an entire act.

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Blitz bombs but TheatreWorks’ Sweeney still soars

Oct 12

Blitz bombs but TheatreWorks’ <i>Sweeney</i> still soars

Tory Ross' sublime performance as Mrs. Lovett, maker of the "worst pies in London," threatens to hijack the TheatreWorks production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and turn it into Nellie Lovett: People Who Eat People Are the Luckiest People.

There's no escaping the genius of Angela Lansbury's indelible performance (captured on video) in the original production of what composer Stephen Sondheim describes as a "dark operetta," but that star turn was a Victorian cartoon, a manically genial grotesque with shadings of a real flesh-and-bone woman under all the goofiness.

But Ross is a whole lot less cartoon and a whole lot more human being.

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Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s Waltz

Oct 06

Emily Skinner waltzes away with Moon’s <i>Waltz</i>

A love letter to Emily Skinner...

Dear Ms. Skinner,I had the pleasure of seeing you perform in 42nd Street Moon's production of Do I Hear a Waltz, and I was completely captivated by your Leona Samish, the lonely American tourist who travels to Venice for a taste of life. I have fond memories of Moon's 1998 production back when they were doing staged concert productions with actors holding their scripts. That was my first encounter with Waltz, a 1965 Broadway curiosity that matched three musical theater masters – Richard Rodgers , Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. The show, by all accounts, was a misery to create, primarily because Rodgers, lacking confidence in his abilities in the wake of Oscar Hammerstein's death, was a miserable and stubborn collaborator

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