Vanessa Williams in “Sondheim on Sondheim” opening
By Roger Friedman
Stephen Sondheim has some serious mother issues. He didn’t like her, and she sure didn’t like him. At a tender age she dumped him with the neighbors–luckily, they were the Hammersteins. Oscar was a famous musical writer with Richard Rodgers. Years later, when she was receiving a pacemaker, mom wrote Stevie that he had been a mistake and an encumbrance. It’s no wonder that Sondheim, as he tells it, didn’t fall in love until he was 60. Presumably, mom was gone.
Well, all that aside, “Sondheim on Sondheim” which opened last night at Studio 54, is just great. It’s a musical revue of 80 year old Sondheim’s brilliant career as a songwriter. It’s also a live documentary– a first, I think–with the subject telling his life story in video clips from screens above a cast of singers that includes (the very hot) Vanessa Williams, Barbara Cook, and Tom Wopat. They, plus five more accomplished singers, get the cool task of performing some of Sondheim’s best and least well known numbers.
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THE CAST ON “SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM”