Stephen Sondheim's next musical, a work of long and difficult gestation,
is on track, the composer said at a San Francisco Symphony press conference
today. Speaking of "the show formerly known as `Wise Guys'"[correcting my
reference to the original title], Sondheim said he finished rewriting the
first act, "Hal Prince is directing it, we read through it, and we are
pleased with ourselves. We are redoing the second act and, with any luck,
it will get on at the end of the next season," he said, "and if not, the
beginning of the following season." While pondering a question from a TV
reporter if he is "frustrated by not being known among young people today,"
Sondheim was forcefully interrupted by Patti LuPone (Mrs. Lovett in
tonight's performance) who yelled: "Because they are idiots! It's the
dumbing down of America." When the laughter and prolonged applause died
down, LuPone added that her husband coaches Little League and has "a
phenomenal baseball collection in his room, brought these kids in and asked
them if they knew who Ty Cobb was - and the kids had no idea." Sondheim
added: "Nor do they know Marilyn Monroe or George Gershwin. Popular art
goes through cycles, you cannot get frustrated or upset about that."
Contradicting the question about Sondheim's popularity, the scene in
the Wattis Room was reminiscent of the Grateful Dead press conference
when Michael Tilson Thomas brought the rock group into a summer concert.
A battery of photographers and TV camera operators focused on Sondheim,
LuPone, George Hearn (Todd), Neil Patrick Harris (Tobias), conductor Rob
Fisher and director Lonny Price.
[The cast for the three-performance run in Davies Hall also includes Lisa
Vroman (Johanna), David Gaines (Anthony), Timothy Nolen (Judge Turpin),
John Aler (The Beadle), Stanford Olsen (Pirelli), and Victoria Clark
EMK Productions is filming the SF production for possible distribution
in the future.
Sondheim said he is very much involved in the upcoming Kennedy Center
festival of six of his works running in repertory, "we are planning within
an inch of its life." He refrained from comment (but joined the laughter)
when LuPone replied to a question about her take on the state of musical
stage today. "I don't know," she said. "I find that I am going to a lot
of plays." LuPone, for whom this is the first Sondheim role, is rumored
to be getting cast in the future as the Witch in "Into the Woods."
Sondheim - looking rested and healthy - kidded about his photo with a NY
Times article on his 70th birthday: "Larry Gelbart said it looked like a
Chechen driver's license," Sondheim said. "I thought the caption should
have been: `Will compose for food'."
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