Posts Tagged ‘Stephen_Sondheim’

A Magical ‘Into the Woods’ at the Wallis Annenberg Center

13 December 2014
Into the Woods production photo - from Annenberg Center website

Into the Woods production photo – from Annenberg Center website

Last Thursday night, my wife Carrie and I and our friend (and my mom’s close friend) Michael went to see Into the Woods on stage at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. It was wonderful.

Spoiler Note: if you’re about to go see this production, don’t read after the jump below. There’s a great trick that you’ll want to be surprised by.

I’ve seen Into the Woods over a half-dozen times on stage, including seeing an early version of the musical in San Diego before it went to Broadway. I’ve watched the basic video of the Broadway cast performance maybe a dozen times. I’ve listened to the cast recording more than a hundred times.

My mom was a huge Stephen Sondheim fan. So we would go see Sondheim musicals being performed all around greater Los Angeles. I’ve written a little about Sondheim earlier at this blog: here, here, and here.

I subjected my wife to the original Broadway cast video, and even (thanks, Michael!) to the recent 20-year original cast reunion performance in Orange County, but this was her first time seeing Into the Woods live on stage. I read about the Annenberg performance and was interested to see it on stage, in part, because there’s a big Into the Woods movie that’s about to come out, and I wanted my wife to see it on stage before she sees it on the big screen. Though I am sometimes disappointed with books I like being made into movies, I am looking forward to the Into the Woods movie. I expect that it will introduce this great work to a much broader audience. But… it’s going to be a new interpretation, with some edits and some liberties taken… and it’s likely to carve a deep groove. I expect that my wife and my daughter and I will see the film version over and over.

All that to say that I was really looking forward to seeing the stage version.

And it didn’t disappoint.


The Wonderful Stephen Sondheim in Conversation That Wasn’t Quite

30 October 2011

Stephen Sondheim not getting conversant tonight

Last night, I made a trip down to Orange County. Dined with my sister, her husband, our (and mom’s) close friend Michael. And went to see Stephen Sondheim in Conversation… well… almost.

Stephen Sondheim was scheduled to appear live at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa… but, due to massive snowstorms blanketing New York City, he wasn’t able to fly to California.

And, sans Sondheim, it all turned out really well.  (more…)

Sondheim Rhyme: Sublime

20 August 2011

As I wrote about here, I’ve listening to a fair amount of Stephen Sondheim… and more you listen to Sondheim, the more his genius kind of sinks in. Like other great art, repeated listenings just get deeper and stronger. The first time I hear a Sondheim piece, I can get the basic gist, and I may like it – especially when it’s performed in a musical. I admit that, sometimes, hearing a piece for the first time, without knowing any of the plot that it hangs on and is completely integral to, it can be more difficult to appreciate. The first time I heard the soundtrack to Sunday in the Park with George, I didn’t get it… and now it seems like it’s part of the fiber of my being.

It’s repeated those listenings and viewings that deepen one’s appreciation for Sondheims work. It sounds deceptively simple… but then there are huge underlying complexities… both musically and in the rhymes. I am not a musician, so I can’t explain the musical textures (maybe watch this NY Times video to get a wonderful taste of it), but lately I’ve been thinking about the way Sondheim rhymes.

When my mom, the biggest Sondheim fan of my life, was in the hospital, I was thinking about her, cruising Youtube for Sondheim, I came across this 2010 PBS Newshour video:

Starting at minute 9 in the video, Sondheim talks about rhyming things based not just on sound but also spelling! This is something I’ve never thought of… isn’t rhyme just about sound? Isn’t that the definition? Sondheim says that he prefers rhymes that are spelled differently, because they surprise. The examples that he uses in the video is that “suffer” and “rougher” is a better or richer rhyme than “rougher” and “tougher.” The other example Sondheim cites is rhyming “journal” and “colonel.”  (more…)

Death as a Patient Visitor – from Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow

9 August 2011

Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow: The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written by Himself – published in 2000 by Counterpoint Press

I read Wendell Berry‘s wonderful novel Jayber Crow novel a few years ago. At the time, I remember being struck by his sense that, at least in a rural agrarian community, death wasn’t so inconceivably sad and painful… but perhaps welcome, though uncomfortable – more a part of the cycles that are embedded in an ongoing continuity.

When my mother died, I had planned to bring this Wendell Berry insight into my brief remarks at her memorial service… but I ended up editing it out, for brevity… and also because I felt like it was probably more about me than about her. Wendell Berry is more in my pantheon of favorite authors, not hers though she’s read some of his work. His essay collection What Are People For? was on her bookshelf… though I suspect she got that book for its essay Wallace Stegner and the Great Community. Mom was a huge Wallace Stegner fan… but that’s another story.

So, this blog entry is sort of my exploration and of a memorial thought that I’d left on the cutting room floor. (To use a completely presumptuous analogy, but one mom would relate to, it’s a bit like Sondheim’s Marry Me  a Little. Mom was a huge Stephen Sondheim fan… but that’s also another story.)

Jayber Crow is the name of a barber – the barber in Berry’s fictional Kentucky small town of Port William. The novel is told in Jayber’s words, though it ends up sort of spanning the events of the township. (more…)