1-pager: Sondheim On Sondheim

In August-September 2023 I had the privilege of music directing Sondheim On Sondheim at the Contra Costa Civic Theatre under the direction of Marilyn Langbehn. More than just a revue of Sondheim’s songs (from the iconic to the incredibly obscure), it’s interspersed with interviews in which Sondheim explains the gestation and genesis of many of the songs. (Here’s a teaser clip from one of our rehearsals, and another.)

(And an unauthorized recording of my awesome pit playing the exit music. The orchestrations for this show are gnarly and are all original by Michael Starobin, who orchestrated Sunday In the Park With George too.)

Since a number of friends have asked, here is a complete list of the songs in the show, which shows they were written for, and other curious minutiae:

The Overture references (in this order):

  • the overture from Merrily We Roll Along
  • the opening of Follies (That Old Piano Roll, a song cut from the show)
  • the opening of Company
  • Lovely from A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum
  • The title song and Hello Little Girl from Into the Woods
  • Epiphany from Sweeney Todd
  • Broadway Baby from Follies
  • The title song from Merrily We Roll Along
  • The end of A Weekend in the Country from A Little Night Music

Invocation/Forget War was the original opening of Forum. It was replaced by Love Is In the Air, which was replaced by Comedy Tonight. Parts of Invocation were later used in The Frogs.

Take Me To the World was written for the film Evening Primrose.

So Many People is from Saturday Night.

Something’s Coming is from West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein).

You Could Drive a Person Crazy is from Company.

The Wedding is Off was written for Company but replaced with Getting Married Today.

Now You Know, Franklin Shepard Inc., and Good Thing Going are from Merrily We Roll Along.

Waiting For the Girls Upstairs is from Follies.

Epiphany is from Sweeney Todd.

I Read, Is This What You Call Love, Loving You, and Happiness are from Passion.

The Act I finale includes parts of Ever After (Into the Woods Act I finale), A Weekend In the Country (A Little Night Music Act I finale), and Sunday (Sunday In the Park With George Act I finale).

God was self-deprecatingly written by Sondheim specifically for this show, possibly in response to a 1994 New York Magazine article whose headline read “Is Sondheim God?”

Losing My Mind is from Follies, and here it’s part of a mash-up with Not A Day Goes By from Merrily, whence also Opening Doors.

The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened is from Road Show, the third incarnation of a show that started as Wise Guys and evolved through Bounce. Its opening vamp also starts the opening numbers of those shows.

Multitudes of Amys, Happily Ever After, and Being Alive are three versions of the “I wish” song written for Bobby in Company.

Ah, But Underneath is one of three songs written for Phyllis’s big production number near the end of Follies. (The other two are Uptown/Downtown and The Story of Lucy and Jessie.)

In Buddy’s Eyes is from Follies.

Something Just Broke and The Gun Song are from Assassins.

Do I Hear a Waltz? is from the musical of the same name (music by Richard Rodgers).

Smile, Girls was cut from Gypsy after just one performance (music by Jule Styne).

Finishing the Hat and Beautiful are from Sunday In the Park With George.

Children Will Listen is from Into the Woods.

Send In the Clowns is, of course, from A Little Night Music.

The Act II finale references Company (from Company), Old Friends (from Merrily), and Anyone Can Whistle (from Anyone Can Whistle).

The curtain call music reprises That Old Piano Roll, Opening Doors, Broadway Baby, the Merrily overture, and Take Me To the World.