Sondheim in Laguna
On the theory that there can never be too much of a good thing, a new revue of Stephen Sondheim's songs is about to have its U.S. premiere.
Whether or not the world really needs another revue of Stephen Sondheim's music and lyrics, it now has one. Moving On, the latest authorized compilation of Sondheim songs, will have its U.S. premiere at the Laguna Playhouse in California, November 3-December 2 (previews October 30-November 2) following its debut production in July 2000 at the Bridewell Theatre in London.
The granddaddy of Sondheim revues is Side by Side by Sondheim, which ran in London and on Broadway in the mid-'70s. Off-Broadway's Marry Me a Little (1980) offered then lesser-known Sondheim songs as sung by two performers representing lovelorn Manhattanites. A later revue, You're Gonna Love Tomorrow, was based on a concert at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1983. Finally, Cameron Mackintosh brought us the misbegotten Putting It Together-first seen in England with Diana Rigg and company, then Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club starring Julie Andrews in her wildly anticipated return to the stage and later revised for an L.A. production starring Andrews' chum Carol Burnett. In 1999, Burnett came to Broadway with the show; her co-stars were George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall, John Barrowman, and Bronson Pinchot. That production was taped by the Broadway Television Network and will be telecast on a pay-per-view basis this Sunday, October 14.
Moving On was conceived by David Kernan, who also conceived and performed in Side by Side by Sondheim. It includes 43 songs (each sung in whole or in part) from 14 of the master's stage musicals, four films, and one television play (Evening Primrose). Though the show is described as "bookless," it includes recorded excerpts from an interview that the creators conducted with Sondheim. The cast of the Laguna Playhouse production includes three Broadway veterans of Sondheim shows: Teri Ralston was in the original Company and A Little Night Music, Ann Morrison played Mary in the short-lived Merrily We Roll Along, and David Engel saw a lot of stage time as an understudy in Putting It Together. The Moving On company is rounded out by Christopher Carothers and Tami Tappan.
It's unclear whether or not Moving On will eventually be licensed for presentation by other theaters, but it's worth noting that Sondheim and his agents are very much hands-on in terms of the use (or misuse) of his material. Just this past spring, a production of Side by Side by Sondheim at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami closed prematurely when the licensing agency Music Theatre International pulled the rights from the theater after it was discovered that songs and other material not included in the revue as scripted had been added.