The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
Take Me To The World - A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration
YouTube Spring 2020
The very model of what
a lockdown entertainment can be, this salute to the masterful
Broadway composer-lyricist is made up of dozens of musicians and
singers each performing in their own homes, brought together through
some brilliant editing and split-screening.
The packaging is
with each performer just introduced in print and then performing,
perhaps with a “Happy Birthday Steve” appended. The whole is
produced by Broadway.com and the charity ASTEP (Artists Striving To
Eradicate Poverty), which makes a few low-key support requests.
comments below the YouTube screen show that just about every
performer delighted his or her fans, so what I list or omit may tell
more about my tastes than their objective merits.
Highlights for me
include Elizabeth Stanley making full use of a close-up to flirt
outrageously with the camera for the best version of The Miller's Son
I've ever seen. Alexander Gemignani matches her a half-hour or so
later with a fully-choreographed-in-a-swivel-chair version of Buddy's
Blues that is the best version of that that I've ever seen.
Pantinkin and Bernadette Peters give master classes
in a capella singing, he
doing Lesson #8 in a field, she No One Is
Alone in her kitchen. With the aid of some clever and sensitive
screen-splitting Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom
Sesma make Someone In A Tree crystal clear and crystalline in its
And then. And then
Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Audra
McDonald just sweep everyone out of the way with a take-no-prisoners
Ladies Who Lunch that you will want to pause and replay before moving
Elsewhere, Randy Rainbow
camping his way through By The Sea, an
uncredited little kid doing Finishing The Hat far better than Michael
Cerveris, a song cut from Assassins that is better than any of the
songs left in that show, Donna Murphy doing Clowns, Patti LuPone, –
you get the idea.
Of course, as with any
anthology, you will have
your own complaints about what was left out. Why Buddy's Blues (as
brilliant as it is) and not In Buddy's Eyes or Losing My Mind? Why
Marry Me A Little instead of Being Alive? Why so much from Into The
I've mentioned the
skilful editing, which visually enriches
several of the performances. To those already listed I'd add the
mosaic effect of the orchestral sequence and the post-final-credits
(wait for it) Still Here. I'm sure there were also a lot of technical
challenges in reconciling performances sent through various programs
and methods, all beautifully met.
It may well be that the
production is a whole new art form we are watching being born.
Certainly this salute to Sondheim sets the bar for such projects very
PS. YouTube's 'If you liked this' algorithm sent me next to Elaine Stritch doing Still Here at the Sondheim Eightieth Birthday show. Watch it – you'll thank me.
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