The learn of internal rhymes, unsatisfied endings, and discordant melodies died Friday at 91. Here is how to mourn with a movie marathon.
The ultimate curtain has fallen on Stephen Sondheim, maestro of American musical theater, who died at 91 on Friday. The excellent mind powering “Into The Woods,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Company,” “Sunday in The Park With George,” and quite a few, lots of far more was a titan of Broadway, and the final dwelling relationship to the golden age of musicals. As a film critic, my early cinematic ordeals started with musical motion pictures, including filmed stage variations of “Into The Woods,” “Gypsy,” and of program, “West Aspect Story,” for which a very young Stephen Sondheim wrote the lyrics (same for “Gypsy.”)
It set me up for a life time of appreciating large drama, grand spectacle — and the unlikely comedic opportunity of cannibalism.
As very last year’s Zoom-ified 90th birthday celebration for Sondheim proved, doing his music is no little activity. Numbers like “Send in The Clowns,” “Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive” are 5-act plays in and of themselves, and as this sort of have been interpreted and re-interpreted by each musical theater performer worth the value of a Broadway ticket. Powerhouse divas like Elaine Stritch, Bernadette Peters, and Angela Lansbury owe considerably of their profession-defining operate to Sondheim. Looking at a singer grapple with the precision of his lyrics, psychological arcs of his songs, and abnormal rhythms of his new music separates the standing ovation-worthy from mere mortals.
While we’ll be waiting awhile for Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Alongside,” filmed more than a 20-year span to abide by the chronology of the clearly show, there are loads of screen versions of Sondheim’s operate available to stream right now. Listed here are 6 of the greatest, with notes on where by to find them.
To borrow from “Company” scene-stealer Joanne: Let’s all consume to that.
“West Side Story” (1961)
One particular of the finest motion picture musicals at any time manufactured, the first “West Aspect Story” is obtaining a present-day remake from Steven Spielberg in two weeks. “West Side Story” capabilities a e-book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, and lyrics by Sondheim, who was just 27 years old when “West Facet Story” premiered. A outstanding lyricist from the begin, his fingerprints are all in excess of the intelligent tracks, effortlessly 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 uncommon bop from the king of malaise, his comedic chops glow in collaboration with Bernstein’s additional conventional melodies.
Available on HBO Max and to lease on Amazon Key, Apple and other services. The Spielberg remake opens in theaters on December 10.
“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007)
One particular of Sondheim’s darkest is effective (rivaled only by “Assassins”) was launched to a world wide audience in 2007, courtesy of Tim Burton. The director solid his regular collaborator Johnny Depp as the murderous barber, and Helena Bonham Carter as Broadway’s Girl MacBeth, Mrs. Lovett. Though the stars, not regarded for their singing, struggled with one of Sondheim’s additional tricky scores (it is, after all, an operetta), Burton’s commercial just take on the cannibalistic tale proved to be the fantastic marriage of sensibilities. A strike with critics and audiences, the film is just one of Hollywood’s better musical variations in current memory.
Available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+, Amazon Prime, and other products and services.
“Original Solid Album: Company” (1970)
Shot in black and white for an unfinished collection, D.A. Pennebaker’s beloved cult vintage can take you driving-the-scenes inside of the recording studio for the initial Broadway cast album of “Company,” one particular of Sondheim’s most outstanding and enduring will work. Documentary enthusiasts arrived to the movie for Pennebaker, and musical theater fans arrived for Elaine Stritch’s iconic breakdown as she muscled by way of the recording of “Ladies Who Lunch.” The movie also options unprecedented footage of Sondheim giving notes, which could be notoriously exacting. God bless Donna McKechnie for saying “bubbi” for the gentleman. The film was unavailable for a long time, an oversight a short while ago corrected by Criterion. (For a ideal double element, pair it with the “Documentary Now” episode “Co-op: Initial Solid Album,” established in a New York Town co-op.)
Accessible to stream on Criterion. “Documentary Now” out there on Netflix.
“Best Worst Thing That At any time Could Have Happened” (2016)
Lonny Price’s documentary about the authentic manufacturing of “Merrily We Roll Along” is an intimate portrait of one of Sondheim’s finest heartbreaks. “One of the lessons of adulthood is disappointment,” suggests a bleary-eyed actress who muses on her time in “Merrily,” a infamous 1981 flop for Sondheim and Hal Prince that finished their decades-long collaborative friendship. The nostalgic documentary chronicles the dashed hopes and dreams of the young performers who believed they had landed their massive Broadway split, only for the present to close after sixteen performances. “Merrily” has because been re-evaluated, and will sometime with any luck , be fully redeemed by the aforementioned Linklater adaptation. But “Best Worst Thing” presents a historical reminder that Sondheim wasn’t usually as universally beloved as he is currently.
Offered on Netflix.
“Into The Woods: Unique Broadway Cast” (1987)
To entirely recognize Bernadette Peters, one particular have to see her Sondheim. Even though she had fun display roles in “The Jerk” and “Mozart in The Jungle,” Peters is a true Broadway icon in the vein of — well, they just don’t make ’em like Bernadette any more. Kristen Chenoweth can test to emulate her bubbly lilt, but she’ll under no circumstances be equipped to ruin a rutabaga with this sort of panache. Sorry to Meryl, but she does not even arrive near in the 2014 large display screen version. Most likely Sondheim’s biggest commercial hit, and his most accessible present, nothing at all beats the first Broadway cast of “Into The Woods.” It’s a wonder we even have accessibility to this 1987 phase variation — it is very rare for a film of a Broadway present to make it to the monitor.
Offered to lease on Apple Television set.
Previous Hollywood buffs will love observing Natalie Wood’s Gypsy Rose Lee reverse Rosalind Russell’s Mama Rose, the most legendary Broadway part for a lady ever to be composed. Sondheim landed his next lyric-crafting gig next his success on “West Facet Tale,” which amazed the at first hesitant composer Jule Styne sufficient to get a prospect on the kid. It’s no surprise that Sondheim had a hand in just one of the finest musicals of all time, which weaves a devastating clearly show enterprise fable into just one strong story. Vaudeville, burlesque, fame, and the authentic battle axe phase mom — “Gypsy” has it all. Whilst it is a tragedy that Ethel Merman’s general performance is not caught on tape, Russell’s is undoubtedly closer to it than Bette Midler’s 1993 exertion.
Accessible on HBO Max. Midler’s 1993 model is on Amazon Prime.
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