Tomorrow (March 22) Stephen Sondheim turns 85 — and Andrew Lloyd Webber turns 67.
It’s one of musical theatre’s great coincidences that the two giants of musical theatre of the second half to the last century share the same birthday.
They’re also both irrepressibly active still. Sondheim recently told The Times in an interview that he’s in the midst of writing All Together Now with playwright David Ives, based on two Luis Buñuel films, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel, and said it’s “coming along slowly. If I’m lucky I’ll finish it. I don’t see it as my final piece, but there can’t be that many left. It takes a long time to write them.”
In the same interview, he also addressed the long-gossiped about subject of a sex dungeon in the basement of his Manhattan home:
There is no basis of truth in it whatsoever. It bothers me. What it represents is people trying to put me down and trash me. It’s like saying, ‘So and so’s a drunk’, ‘Who does he think he is?’ If you go downstairs there’s a washing machine and a boiler. There’s one great thing down there and that’s a cedar closet with all my original manuscripts in it.
And today I’m of to see the “pie shop” Sweeney Todd again, transposed from Tooting to Shaftesbury Avenue; and on Tuesday week (March 30), I’ll also be at the opening of another production of the show at the London Coliseum, inaugurating ENO’s new partnership with Grade/Linnit to bring musicals there, with an all-star cast that’s led by Bryn Terfel (reprising a role he’s previously played in London at the Royal Festival Hall) and Emma Thompson and also featuring the welcome return to London of three-time Olivier winner Philip Quast, who’s been living back in his native Australia for the last few years. (Phil will be appearing not once but twice in London this year; in June, he returns in Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Waiting for Godot to the Barbican).
Meanwhile Lloyd Webber is readying his next musical School of Rock, which will premiere on Broadway in December — the first of his shows since Jesus Christ Superstar to open there ahead of the West End (Whistle Down the Wind was also supposed to open on Broadway before coming to London, but its first production was aborted after a Washington DC try-out and a different production opened in London instead).
I’ve never seen the 2003 Richard Linklater film on which School of Rock is based, but the title worries me a little: I absent-mindedly just typed Rock of Ages into google when I was looking up the show. The comparison doesn’t bear thinking about…..