The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
forced the 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 onscreen.
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 minimal,
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.
The 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
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.
Separately, Mandy 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 beauty.
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 on.
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
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
lockdown 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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