Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mister Sondheim

So it's Stephen Sondheim's birthday. It has been announced on chatboards and Facebook pages all day long. A Sondheim fan, I found this very nice. I am not an expert, like Ricky Pope or Alan Scott or... oh, so many other people. I do have a rather unique point of view on the works of this widely acknowledged genius: I am a non singer, someone who cannot read music and doesn't really understand how it works - yet, Sondheim is like breathing to me. I just get it. It lives in my blood. For a layperson, a civilian, that's pretty cool.

I just love him.

I even met him; twice. He was very friendly to me and absolutely charming, which I love.

I read Ricky Pope's status message, in which he asked his friends to name their favourite song. Several people weighed in and some of those several opted for a list of songs, rather than naming just one. I considered a list; but I like to challenge myself and stick to the rules. I thought about my longtime favourite song Anyone Can Whistle... I thought about the song that I told Mr Sondheim was my favourite: Who Could Be Blue/Little White House.... I thought about the song that represents all my years as a photographer: Finishing the Hat....I thought about so many options and choices.. and I chose the song Goodbye For Now. Something about it speaks to me and lives in me. So that was my choice - but I did say that it would be easier to name a favourite song from each show.

Then I went to my page and posted the status message.. and friends had a lot to say, including one friend who suggested naming a favourite from every show.

SO.. here it is. My list of each of my favourite songs from each Sondheim show, in alphabetical order.

ANYONE CAN WHISTLE. I love the title song from this musical for a lot of reasons. It was introduced to me by my bestie, Marci, in college. It holds strong memories for a time when I was in love with a man who didn't want me, memories of my youth. I love the David Kernan recording, the Bernadette Peters version, the Billy Stritch performance... a lot of other renditions, too; but, for me, it will always belong to my favourite actress, Miss Lee Remick, who sang it first. I have asked Marci to sing this song at my funeral.

ASSASSINS. I love the song Another National Anthem and wanted to impress everyone by putting it in this slot -- but I can't. I can't put it here because I have realized that Everybody's Got the Right should be in this slot. I have realized this by thinking about how often I find myself singing this song. It may not be every day... but it is a lot. There is a hypnotic effect this song has on me; and it has from the first time I heard it.

BOUNCE. The Sondheim show I know the least, the one I probably like the least, I still listen to it from time to time and I really do like the title song - it is extremely reminiscent of some of the songs from his past shows, songs I really love. It's almost like it's a pastiche of his own work -- I like that.

COMPANY. As an alcoholic, I should put The Ladies Who Lunch in this spot because I know the truth of it. Company is one of my favourites - not just Sondheim but musicals. I'm going with Another Hundred People because I am a New Yorker and it says everything to me about the joys of being a New Yorker.

DO I HEAR A WALTZ? I love the song We're Gonna Be Alright, love how clever it is, love the slightly racy lyrics (at times), love it all; but I am picking the title song. I can't help it. I love it.

EVENING PRIMROSE. Take Me to the World HAUNTS me.

FOLLIES. Possibly my favourite Sondheim show... though I can't be sure... this is a slam dunk. In Buddy's Eyes.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. My favourite rhyme in all of musical theater is in this show. "the situation's fraught.. fraughter than I thought" from the song Impossible.

GYPSY. Of the songs that made it into the show, my favourite is Small World; but my real favourite is the cut song, Mama's Talkin' Soft. LOVE that song.

INTO THE WOODS. Another of my alltime favourite shows, the songs are all stunning but the one that is most important in my life was sung by my beloved friend, Joanna Gleason: Moments in the Woods.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. This show is neck and neck with Follies in the favourites column. So hard to pick just one song because I sing the night waltes all the time. Both of them. I love the second act Night Waltz, probably more than the first one... but I must admit that my favourite is Every Day a Little Death (with a particularly special mention of the film score's version of Glamourous Life, which haunts me).

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG. I bought this record album when I was 18 and I played it until I had to replace it. I love this score so, so, so very much. And I feel every word and note of Not a Day Goes By and wish I were a singer so I could show the world that I get it; but my favourite is actually Our Time. I think it is pat's too...

PACIFIC OVERTURES. I could listen to Someone in a Tree over and over and over. Some days I do.

PASSION. I listen when people talk about Passion and I have come to realize that I am one of a small group of people who love this show. I do. I love every word and every note of this score. It's hard to pick because Happiness haunts me and I love the message in No One Has Ever Loved Me; but the truth is that Loving You is it for me. That song rocks my world.

SATURDAY NIGHT. What a charming score. In college I fell in love with the title song, Isn't It? and What More Do I Need when I heard them on the record A Stephen Sondheim Evening... but when I saw the show in New York, i fell in love with I Remember That - and I still am.

SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. My favourite musical of all time (ok, it shares the honour with NINE), it is near impossible to pick a favourite song from the score... NEAR impossible. It's Finishing the Hat. That song is my life... even now, when i am no longer creating art, it is my life.

SWEENEY TOOD. I love the song Wait with all my heart. I love the Joanna Quintet ( it is a quintet, isn't it? ) SOOO much. But I sing the song Pretty Women almost every day. That says something...

WEST SIDE STORY. The Quintet. It's one of the greatest songs in all musical theater. I drove Karl and Ian Thompson crazy in high school, singing it over and over.

The song GOODBYE FOR NOW, which I named as my favourite, is, of course, from the film STAVISKY... and so I must mention that, from the film DICK TRACY, my favourite song is not the Oscar winning Sooner or Later, but the haunting What Can You Lose.

Cut from FOLLIES, there is a song that was used in MARRY ME A LITTLE that ranks as one of my favourites: Who Could be Blue/Little White House; and from the review PUTTING IT TOGETHER, while I have great fondness for Back in Business, I could listen to Michael Rupert sing Live Alone and Like It every day. And I think that covers the entire list, though I am working from memory and may have left off a show.

Now. I want to know YOUR list. Please?

Here are some of the replies I got from my Facebook posting of the above story...

Josh: Of the ones I know very well (which sadly isn't many and I need to familiarize myself with the others):

ASSASSINS: This isn't TECHNICALLY a song, but it's on the original Off-Broadway Cast Recording. It's "November 22, 1963." The power and logic is astounding. It's just awesome to me. For a real song, though, I must choose "The Ballad of Czolgosz."GYPSY: "If Momma Was Married."...

INTO THE WOODS: "Moments in the Woods" is just the quintessential Sondheim song. It everything you want, need, and love from his music. "No One Is Alone" speaks to my soul. As a native New Yorker, you can truly feel alone sometimes. But I have great friends and family, and this song makes me remember that when I need to.

SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE: I never saw, nor do I know at all, the original production. The recent Roundabout revival, though, changed my life. "Finishing the Hat" is the be all, end all for me with regards to Mr. Sondheim.

SWEENEY TODD: This was the very first Sondheim show I knew. It resonated with me at the first note, and the high-pitched whistle in the "Prelude" and "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" still resonates with me almost daily. Chilling.

WEST SIDE STORY: I agree. The "Quintet." Gorge.

Jamie: Your exhaustive and beautifully expressed list is testament to your love of the man and his music and lyrics. I will list only the few gems that have taken up residence in my heart. I met Mr. Sondheim too. When I was doing "Whoop-Dee-Doo!" Off-Broadway, he came to see it with Terrence McNally. Both men seemed to be 'in their cups' as it were, ... See Moreand each brought with him a gorgeous young man to flank them on either side. They roared with laughter throughout the show.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC is my favorite Sondheim show, with COMPANY almost edging it out. In the former, while I adore every song in the show, my fave is "You Must Meet My Wife" which is the most delicious duet possibly ever written. In the latter, "Someone is Waiting." It breaks my heart. Especially the lyric, 'wait for me, I'll hurry--wait for me--hurry--wait for me...' Kills me.

Carolyn: I drove people in HS crazy with West Side Story too. There are mentions in my yearbook about it... Many, many others on your list are favorites of mine, too. Listening to them or preparing for an audition with them or just singing them around the house!

Bob: This is just too hard to choose, but here goes:

ANYONE CAN WHISTLE - There Won't Be Trumpets

ASSASSINS - Everybody's Got The Right

BOUNCE - Opportunity

COMPANY - Sorry, Grateful... See More

DO I HEAR A WALTZ?- We're Gonna Be Alright

FOLLIES - OMG! The entire score, but if I had to pick just one - In Buddy's Eyes

FORUM - Comedy Tonight

GYPSY - Some People

INTO THE WOODS - No One Is Alone

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC - A Weekend In The Country



PASSION - Loving You (LOVE the entire score!)



SWEENEY TODD - A Little Priest


Lisa-Gabrielle: I like "Corner of the Sky"....oh wait that's a different Stephen.....

Seriously though ,let me not follow your instructions and just declare my fave!Into the Woods...."Children Will Listen"easy/peazy choice for me....oh those amazingly prophetic lyrics!

Jeffrey: "Finishing the Hat" without doubt.


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