The grasp of interior rhymes, unhappy endings, and discordant melodies died Friday at 91. Here is how to mourn with a motion picture marathon.
The final curtain has fallen on Stephen Sondheim, maestro of American musical theater, who died at 91 on Friday. The outstanding intellect at the rear of “Into The Woods,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Company,” “Sunday in The Park With George,” and several, many far more was a titan of Broadway, and the last residing connection to the golden age of musicals. As a movie critic, my early cinematic activities began with musical flicks, which includes filmed stage versions of “Into The Woods,” “Gypsy,” and of system, “West Aspect Tale,” for which a incredibly youthful Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics (same for “Gypsy.”)
It established me up for a lifetime of appreciating high drama, grand spectacle — and the not likely comedic opportunity of cannibalism.
As previous year’s Zoom-ified 90th birthday celebration for Sondheim proved, performing his music is no small endeavor. Numbers like “Send in The Clowns,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive” are 5-act performs in and of on their own, and as these kinds of have been interpreted and re-interpreted by every single musical theater performer worth the price tag of a Broadway ticket. Powerhouse divas like Elaine Stritch, Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury owe much of their profession-defining do the job to Sondheim. Watching a singer grapple with the precision of his lyrics, emotional arcs of his tunes, and unconventional rhythms of his songs separates the standing ovation-worthy from mere mortals.
Though we’ll be ready awhile for Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Together,” filmed more than a 20-12 months span to abide by the chronology of the clearly show, there are plenty of display versions of Sondheim’s function accessible to stream right now. Below are 6 of the finest, with notes on where to discover them.
To borrow from “Company” scene-stealer Joanne: Let us all drink to that.
“West Side Story” (1961)
A single of the biggest film musicals at any time produced, the primary “West Aspect Story” is acquiring a contemporary remake from Steven Spielberg in two months. “West Side Story” options a e book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Sondheim, who was just 27 decades outdated when “West Facet Story” premiered. A amazing lyricist from the begin, his fingerprints are all around the intelligent music, conveniently recognizable in lines like: “I like the isle of Manhattan/Smoke on your pipe and put that in.” The upbeat “Gee Officer Krupke” is a scarce bop from the king of malaise, his comedic chops shine in collaboration with Bernstein’s a lot more standard melodies.
Accessible on HBO Max and to rent on Amazon Key, Apple and other companies. The Spielberg remake opens in theaters on December 10.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)
A single of Sondheim’s darkest works (rivaled only by “Assassins”) was launched to a world viewers in 2007, courtesy of Tim Burton. The director solid his recurrent collaborator Johnny Depp as the murderous barber, and Helena Bonham Carter as Broadway’s Woman MacBeth, Mrs. Lovett. Although the stars, not acknowledged for their singing, struggled with a person of Sondheim’s much more hard scores (it is, just after all, an operetta), Burton’s industrial acquire on the cannibalistic story proved to be the great marriage of sensibilities. A hit with critics and audiences, the movie is just one of Hollywood’s superior musical diversifications in the latest memory.
Readily available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+, Amazon Key, and other services.
“Original Cast Album: Company” (1970)
Shot in black and white for an unfinished collection, D.A. Pennebaker’s beloved cult basic takes you guiding-the-scenes inside the recording studio for the original Broadway forged album of “Company,” just one of Sondheim’s most amazing and enduring performs. Documentary fans arrived to the movie for Pennebaker, and musical theater enthusiasts arrived for Elaine Stritch’s legendary breakdown as she muscled as a result of the recording of “Ladies Who Lunch.” The film also characteristics unparalleled footage of Sondheim supplying notes, which could be notoriously exacting. God bless Donna McKechnie for announcing “bubbi” for the person. The film was unavailable for many years, an oversight not long ago corrected by Criterion. (For a perfect double element, pair it with the “Documentary Now” episode “Co-op: First Solid Album,” established in a New York City co-op.)
Readily available to stream on Criterion. “Documentary Now” offered on Netflix.
“Best Worst Matter That Ever Could Have Happened” (2016)
Lonny Price’s documentary about the original manufacturing of “Merrily We Roll Along” is an intimate portrait of 1 of Sondheim’s greatest heartbreaks. “One of the classes of adulthood is disappointment,” claims a bleary-eyed actress who muses on her time in “Merrily,” a infamous 1981 flop for Sondheim and Hal Prince that finished their decades-lengthy collaborative friendship. The nostalgic documentary chronicles the dashed hopes and dreams of the young performers who thought they experienced landed their big Broadway crack, only for the display to near after sixteen performances. “Merrily” has due to the fact been re-evaluated, and will sometime hopefully be totally redeemed by the aforementioned Linklater adaptation. But “Best Worst Thing” presents a historic reminder that Sondheim wasn’t always as universally beloved as he is now.
Readily available on Netflix.
“Into The Woods: Primary Broadway Cast” (1987)
To completely comprehend Bernadette Peters, 1 should see her Sondheim. Although she had exciting display roles in “The Jerk” and “Mozart in The Jungle,” Peters is a real Broadway icon in the vein of — nicely, they just really do not make ’em like Bernadette any more. Kristen Chenoweth can try to emulate her bubbly lilt, but she’ll never be in a position to spoil a rutabaga with these kinds of panache. Sorry to Meryl, but she doesn’t even come shut in the 2014 major display screen variation. In all probability Sondheim’s largest commercial hit, and his most accessible exhibit, nothing at all beats the authentic Broadway cast of “Into The Woods.” It is a wonder we even have obtain to this 1987 phase version — it is incredibly unusual for a film of a Broadway display to make it to the display screen.
Offered to lease on Apple Tv set.
Outdated Hollywood buffs will take pleasure in viewing Natalie Wood’s Gypsy Rose Lee opposite Rosalind Russell’s Mama Rose, the most iconic Broadway role for a girl at any time to be composed. Sondheim landed his next lyric-creating gig subsequent his achievements on “West Aspect Story,” which impressed the at first hesitant composer Jule Styne ample to choose a probability on the kid. It is no shock that Sondheim experienced a hand in a person of the best musicals of all time, which weaves a devastating exhibit business enterprise fable into 1 impressive story. Vaudeville, burlesque, fame, and the authentic fight axe stage mom — “Gypsy” has it all. When it’s a tragedy that Ethel Merman’s functionality is not caught on tape, Russell’s is definitely nearer to it than Bette Midler’s 1993 effort.
Obtainable on HBO Max. Midler’s 1993 version is on Amazon Primary.