‘Sondheim on Sondheim’ surprises at Playhouse

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Last weekend the Erie Playhouse performed what it considers “An intimate look at the father of the modern musical.”
It proved to be a show to experience every emotion with.
“Sondheim on Sondheim” is a biographical play that showcases the musical work of Stephen Sondheim throughout nearly 60 years of writing.
Some of his most famous works he is known for include the music from “West Side Story,” “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd.”
“Sondheim on Sondheim” comprises some of his personal favorite songs, as well as songs that didn’t make the cut into certain musicals.
Each musical number is performed by a group of actors or singers.
In between each number there is a projection video of Sondheim himself, describing his feelings when he created that song, the story behind the idea of it or just talking in general about his personal life.
When entering the theater, I was not entirely surprised that I was the youngest audience member.
The rows and rows of shiny silver heads just assured me how timeless Sondheim’s music is, but also how old.
I only recently discovered his music with the release of the movie version of “Into the Woods.”
With his creations making a comeback on the movie screen, it’s clear to see why the theater was filled.
Being a newbie to Sondheim’s music, I definitely didn’t recognize most of the songs being sung.
However, the cast of singers did a wonderful job of telling bits and pieces of stories from multiple plays.
It was like reading various books, but skipping to your favorite parts instead of reading the whole thing.
The play went from one of Gannon University’s professors, the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, singing the serious, and slightly terrifying, song “Epiphany” from “Sweeney Todd,” to all the cast members singing the humorous song “Waiting for the Girls Upstairs” from “Company.”
Meanwhile, Sondheim interrupted from a projection, comically discussing his favorite writing utensils, or a serious story of his partnerships or father figure Oscar Hammerstein.
Sondheim shared many personal stories throughout the play, several of which were tear-jerkers.
He stated how his mother had written him a letter when he was the age of 60, stating that giving him birth was the only regret she had in her life.
Although depressing, the musical continues with “Children will Listen” from “Into the Woods,” showing where some of his inspiration for the song had come from.
Overall, the Erie Playhouses production of “Sondheim on Sondheim,” while most likely giving the rest of the audience a sense of nostalgia, introduced me to new music.
Sondheim is famously known for his lyric writing and music composing talents, and it wasn’t until seeing, or rather hearing, some of his best credited work that this theater lover discovered some more music to add to her playlists.
LAUREN SOVISKY
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