Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By Stephen Sondheim's Side...

... is where I stood for a few brief, fantabulous minutes last night. It was part of a benefit for APPLAUSE! Musicals Society, which brought in the maestro to talk about his life in the theatre. The talk itself, which was moderated in inestimable fashion by Jerry Wasserman (who had done his research), was at the Vogue, and it was great to see the venue more or less sold out and the audience hanging breathlessly on Sondheim's every word as he traded anecdotes about Oscar and Jerry and Lenny and Arthur and Ethel and Hal; talked about studying Cole Porter lyrics and Mozart symphonies with Milton Babbitt at Princeton; revealed that he is working on a two-volume edition of his complete annotated lyrics for Knopf; and claimed that the greatest American musical of all time remains the Gershwins' Porgy and Bess.

But the talk at the Vogue was actually preceded by an intimate (!) gathering for 75 people or so across the street at Tom Lee Music (a longtime sponsor of APPLAUSE!), each of whom had purchased a premium ticket from APPLAUSE! in order to sip wine and nibble canapes in Steve's presence. And, with the right combination of luck, timing, and hutzpah, actually get a chance to exchange a word or two with him. Which is what Richard and I did at an auspicious moment when the coterie around him momentarily parted and there was a pause in the conversation. Seizing that moment, I thrust my hand forward, introduced myself and Richard, and mentioned that we'd be in New York this weekend (which is true--I'm running the marathon there on Sunday), and did he have any recommendations about what we should see theatre-wise? He seemed to appreciate the question (maybe because it wasn't a query about the rhyme structure and chord changes in "Children Will Listen"?), although he wasn't altogether sanguine about the musical theatre scene in New York at the moment. But he did recommend the revival of Finian's Rainbow, which he's heard very great things about, and which he suspected would be reviewed very strongly when it opens (either today or tomorrow). It is the first time the play is being revived since its Broadway premiere in 1947, so I can imagine the interest (how do they solve the problem of blackface, for instance?).

At any rate, it was only a momentary brush with theatrical greatness, but it was a huge thrill nonetheless. The entire evening will remain a performance high point in my life, without question--even the residue of blood splatter from Evil Dead: The Musical (which is currently playing at the Vogue) that I took home with me on my jacket.


No comments: