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In praise of Stephen Sondheim in “Company” and “Assassins”


It was proof of Sondheim’s long-standing popularity that on the day of his death, members of the public lined up to see covers of two of his musicals: “Company,” a Broadway production starring Patti LuPone. and Katrina Lenk, and “Assassins”, on people who have killed or attempted to kill US presidents. Both had been delayed by the pandemic.

With the cast of “Company” standing on stage behind her at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater, arms around her shoulders, Elliott said Sondheim’s death came as a shock to the production, whose members had come to know the composer. and lyricist during the preparation for the revival. Even at 91 and with over six decades of writing music and lyrics for Broadway behind him, Sondheim had been active in the new musical series, which premiered in 1970 and has won six Tony Awards. The current production was a hit with critics when it debuted in London in 2019.

“He didn’t need to do that,” Elliott said. “But he became the biggest enthusiast of it, and every line from George Furth and every word that we talked about, we argued, we argued, we argued, we laughed,” Elliott added, referring to the playwright.

In this version, the central character, a bachelor with engagement issues, is played by a woman (Lenk). He had been supportive of the changes to the musical, Elliott said. “He really understood art,” she said, “and he really understood the present and why art should speak in the present.”

Until his death, Sondheim was both a writer and a fairly active theater lover. Earlier this month, Sondheim had traveled to Manhattan from his home in Connecticut to see these productions himself, attending the opening night of “Assassins” at the Classic Stage Company on November 14 and a preview of “Company” the next day. This week, Sondheim discussed his current project – his latest musical – with the New York Times, saying, “What else would I do with my time but write?”


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