Bernadette Peters Stars in Sondheim / Marsalis Piece

A Bed and a ChairIt has been announced that multiple Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters will star A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Affair. The show is a collaboration between legendary Broadway composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and famed jazz artist Wynton Marsalis.

A Bed and a Chair, which is directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Parker Esse, will also feature the talents of Meg Gillentine, Tyler Hanes, and Cyrille Aimée. It was conceived by Doyle, along with Peter Gethers and Jack Viertel.

Featuring over 24 Stephen Sondheim compositions, each re-imagined by Wynton Marsalis, A Bed and a Chair will play New York City Center from November 13-17 as an Encores! Special Event. Learn more at jalc.org.

A Little Night Music Soundtrack Now on CD

A Little Night MusicEven many of Stephen Sondheim’s most avid fans know very little about the film version of his classic 1973 Broadway musical A Little Night Music. Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Rigg, the 1978 movie was not a success and has gone largely forgotten by musical theater fans over the decades.

But now Sondheim fans can judge for themselves whether or not the movie’s songs were worth preserving, as the A Little Night Music movie soundtrack has been made available on CD for the first time ever. The CD recording has been released by Sony Masterworks and is also available for digital download.

In addition to well-known Stephen Sondheim songs like “Send in the Clowns,” the soundtrack also includes a re-written film version of “The Glamorous Life” and instrumental cues that were previously unreleased. Go to MasterworksBroadway.com to find out more about the recording.

Broadway Composer Stephen Sondheim To Receive MacDowell Medal

Stephen SondheimOn August 11, Tony Award winning songwriter Stephen Sondheim will be honored with the 54th Edward MacDowell Medal during a ceremony at The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. A national award presented each year to an American artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the arts, the MacDowell Medal has previously gone to such distinguished artists as Joan Didion, Edward Hopper, Merce Cunningham, and Sondheim’s writing partner on West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein.

Stephen Sondheim will receive the medal during a day-long event taking place from 11am to 5pm. Free and open to the public, the event will include appearances from company chairman Michael Chabon and author/theater critic Frank Rich.

Sondheim’s numerous Broadway credits as a composer and lyricist include Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Company, Follies, Assassins, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Sunday in the Park with George.

Find out more information about The MacDowell Colony at www.MacDowellColony.org.

Broadway: The American Musical Returns to PBS October 7

One of the most comprehensive accounts of Broadway history ever assembled is returning to TV on October 7, when New York City’s PBS/Thirteen re-airs Broadway: The American Musical.  The six-part documentary, which debuted on television in 2004, is hosted by beloved musical theater icon Julie Andrews and covers Broadway from 1893 to the present.

In addition to production photos, interviews with theater greats, and excerpts from original Broadway cast recordings, the documentary also contains rare archival footage, newsreels, home movies, diary excerpts and personal correspondence, and notable moments, from the opening night of the groundbreaking Rodgers & Hammerstein classic Oklahoma! to the opening night of today’s hit Wicked.

Dozens and dozens of performers, choreographers, directors, composers, lyricists, bookwriters, producers, and Broadway legends take part in the series, including Carol Channing, Mel Brooks, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Agnes de Mille, Harvey Fierstein, Bob Fosse, Joel Grey, Jerry Herman, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Arthur Laurents, Jerry Orbach, Harold Prince, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, Tommy Tune, Ben Vereen, and many more.

Broadway: The American Musical will air each Sunday evening from October 7 through November 11.  Already available on DVD, the series will debut on Blu-ray with extra material on October 16.

Going Into the Woods in Central Park

Into the Woods (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Into the Woods, which premiered on Broadway in 1987 and was revived on Broadway in 2002, is now going into its last week of a popular run at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  Part of the Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare in the Park series, Into the Woods is of course not Shakespeare.  But the Public has been known to sneak a contemporary musical into its summer season every now and then, often with great results (the Shakespeare in the Park production of Hair a few years back transferred to Broadway for a respectable run).

With a score by revered composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim, Into the Woods has carried more buzz than any Shakespeare in the Park production in recent years.  It doesn’t hurt that Oscar-nominated film actress Amy Adams (Enchanted, Julie & Julia, Doubt) is co-starring.  She plays the role of the Baker’s Wife, one half of a childless couple who must collect a series of objects in order to reverse a Witch’s curse.  They interact with numerous characters from legend in this fairy tale mash-up that features beloved characters like Cinderella, Jack (of Beanstalk fame), Little Red Ridinghood, and the Big Bad Wolf.  The big twist in Into the Woods is that, after bringing us to a happy conclusion at the end of the first act, the musical becomes quite dark in the second act as it explores the consequences of the actions each character took to achieve a “happy ending”.

This production, based on an outdoor English production from a couple years ago, is very good overall.  The set design, coupled with the naturally picturesque Central Park location, makes for an enchanting background for the musical.  A new frame story, which has a young boy serving as narrator, is a nice touch that reminds us of the power that fairy tales hold, especially for the young.

Chip Zien and Denis O’Hare (Photo by Joan Marcus)

The cast is uniformly good, with stand-outs being Jessie Mueller as Cinderella and Sarah Stiles as a hilarious Little Red.  Denis O’Hare is solid in the crucial role of the Baker, though his singing is unfortunately lacking, notably in the beautiful second-act ballad “No One Is Alone”.

A particular treat for longtime Sondheim fans is the presence of Chip Zien in the role of the Mysterious Man, who takes part in the moving duet “No More” with the Baker.  In the original Broadway production of Into the Woods, Zien played the Baker, so it is a joy to see him “graduating” to the Mysterious Man, a role that he plays with great humor and pathos.  Sondheim fans can also appreciate seeing Broadway stalwart Donna Murphy (who first made her mark in the original Broadway production of the Sondheim-scored musical Passion) in the role of the Witch, one of the musical’s most showy parts, which she plays with relish.

Due to Into the Woods‘s immense popularity, the Public Theater has already extended the run until September 1, which means you still have a week to catch it.  Tickets are absolutely free, and they are handed out at 1pm on performance days.  People have been lining up very early for this production, and we have heard that, in general, you need to arrive at Central Park before 6 or 7am if you want to actually get tickets.

There is also an online lottery that opens up each night at midnight, but, as with any lottery, there are always many more losers than winners.  Another option is to join the standby line, which generally starts forming immediately after the tickets have been handed out at 1pm.  There is no way to guarantee that you will get in via standby, but for the best chance of securing tickets that way, we would recommend arriving by 4pm.

For more information on Shakespeare in the Park, visit shakespeareinthepark.org.