How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

I love musicals, movie or Broadway. And yet I’ve had a spotty relationship with Stephen Sondheim. I can quote vast tracks of “Into the Woods” by heart and have seen several productions of it, yet I’ve never quite warmed up to some of his other repertoire. I can’t tell if it’s the productions I’ve tried to listen to or the actual material itself. That may be why I loved the “Sondheim at Carnegie Hall” celebration from 1992. I listened to that cd set to death when it was first released. The songs were performed divorced from their show context and sometimes even remixed or combined with other songs from other sources. The show also showed how wide Sondheim’s influence stretched from the classically trained singers to the Broadway divas to alt-pop singing groups. Listening the whole two cd set again tonight, I noticed some of the same old favorites — Daisy Egan charming everyone in “Broadway Baby” or Karen Ziemba slinking her way into “Sooner or Later” or the Tonics’ “Good Thing Going”. I was also struck by the ones we’ve lost along the way from Michael Jeter’s “Love I Hear” to wacky Madeline Kahn as the doomed wannabe bride Amy or Dorothy Loudon wondering if she was “Losing My Mind/You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” I appreciated the humorous songs better than the big dramatic ones.  But there was the caustic wit of “Weekend in the Country” and the bitterness of “Ballad of Booth”. The best songs for me showed Sondheim’s real flair for words, his ability to turn a phrase around. And yet there was “Anyone Can Whistle” in a spare piano accompaniment that affected me more than say “Being Alive”.

I do want to give “Sunday in the Park with George”, “A Little Night Music” and “Company” second chances. Maybe I can appreciate them now that I’m older.

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