Thursday, January 2, 2014
Steve's Six Sticks (Television Review: Six By Sondheim, HBO)
What a way to spend the first afternoon of 2014: by viewing the HBO documentary "Six By Sondheim." This was shown a little while back, but I have been caught in the middle of a lot of things, and I know I wanted to give this my full attention. I am glad I did - this is not one of those shows that an just play. You have to carefully listen to the Master himself as he explains his craft. You miss a sentence and you could be lost. Through a series of interviews, we see Sondheim explains art his way, his style, and framed through six of his songs: "Something's Coming" ("West Side Story"), "Opening Doors" ("Merrily We Roll Along"), "Send in the Clowns" ("A Little Night Music"), "I'm Still Here" ("Follies"), "Being Alive" ("Company") and "Sunday" ("Sunday in the Park With George"). On some of the songs, director James Lapine has filmed them in new scenes. I tore up hearing Audra McDonald sing "Send In The Clowns," for example. It's a gorgeous marriage of pristine vocals and haunting melody. I loved how Sondheim explains how the song became a hit after being adopted by Judy Collins and Frank Sinatra. He relates that even Sinatra didn't understand the context of the lyrics of the song, as I have always felt Sinatra didn't always have the firmest connection with his lyrics. It was great to see Larry Kert singing "Something's Coming" from archival footage, as well as Dean Jones belting out "Being Alive" from the recording sessions of the Original Cast recording session of "Company." For "Openign Doors," (both parts one and two) they have recast young upstarts like Jeremy Jordan, Darren Criss, America Ferrera and Laura Osnes and you instantly realize how the work still feels fresh and youthful. There are a lot of great things in this documentary, but it mostly made me feel nostalgic about friends I have lost whom I shared my love of Sondheim with. The New Year always makes us feel contemplative, and this show just made me a little more reflective.