Take Your Parents

Sondheim on Sondheim

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Conceived and Directed by James Lapine

Barbara Cook and Vanessa Williams in Sondheim on Sondheim

BOTTOM LINE: It's like being on the best date ever with Steven Sondheim. We were married by the end of the show.

Sondheim on Sondheim, according to the press notes (and I paraphrase), is an intimate portrait of Sondheim in his own words. With exclusive interview footage, the show gives an inside look at Sondheim's personal life and artistic process. An ensemble cast (Vanessa Williams, Barbara Cook, Tom Wopat, Norm Lewis, Leslie Kritzer, Euan Morton, Erin Mackey, and Matthew Scott - all varying levels of superlative) perform brand-new arrangements of Sondheim tunes, both beloved and obscure.

Sondheim on Sondheim, according to me, is absolutely beautiful, although it loses points for only running until June 13. Why not forever, producers?

If you like and see musicals, you have at some point, loved/seen/enjoyed a show by Sondheim. The most prolific writer in the biz, he's the man behind the following shows (and more): Company, Follies, Sunday in the Park With George, Assassins, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (The King and I, which is not Sondheim, for those of you playing at home). So, if you're one of those people who enjoys musical theatre, you really can't go wrong with this production. It's easy, warm, heartbreaking, heartwarming, magical and masterfully executed. Brava. 

Sondheim on Sondheim is directed by James Lapine, a seasoned sailor who knows the ropes, and one of Sondheim's best collaborators. It's magical to see such easy confidence in direction. His work is masterful, delicate, he lets the material breathe, and knows it doesn't need much guiding; but when it does, he gives it the slightest, deftest touch, just enough to get it perfect, and then he steps back again.

It's wonderful to hear Sondheim himself discussing his views on music, character and writing with the care, tenderness, and warmth of a humble and devoted servant. The actors are sublime, Barbara Cook, Norm Lewis and Vanessa Williams brought me to tears a few times (Cook singing "Send in the Clowns, Williams singing "Losing My Mind", and Lewis singing "Being Alive.") and I was sorry not to see more of the other ensemble members. I tip a special hat to Euan Morton for his frenetic and pitch-perfect "Franklin Shepard, Inc.," but really, everyone is marvelous and memorable. The show's design and video/projections are seamless and fluid, the show moves like water. Well done, all.

By the way: if you don't like musicals, it's still good! My friend who came with me to see the show (and I don't think I would be overstating the case when I say that she very much despises musicals) really enjoyed herself. She wasn't delirious with joy (like I was) but she had a very good time. That is, quite possibly, the highest praise ever given to a musical in the history of musicals.

And who in the entire world wouldn't want to go on a date with Stephen Sondheim? 

(Sondheim on Sondheim is presented by Roundabout Theatre Company and plays at Studio 54, 254 West 54th Street, through June 13. Performances are Tuesdays at 8pm, Wednesdays at 2pm and 8pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm,  Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $36.50-$126.50. To purchase tickets call 212.719.1300 or visit