Theater Preview: SONDHEIM @ 90 ROUNDTABLE (Porchlight Music Theatre Virtual Series)

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by Tony Frankel on May 7, 2020

in Extras,Theater-Chicago,Theater-Regional


Welcome to a new, free virtual series to celebrate Stephen Sondheim as an American icon while celebrating his 90th birthday year. Sondheim @ 90 Roundtable, created and hosted by Chicago’s Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Director Michael Weber, gathers talents from Chicago, Broadway and the world of theater to offer episodes focusing on a specific Sondheim musical, with special guests presenting videos of Sondheim inspired performances, providing a lively discussion of that week’s work, and sharing their views on Sondheim’s impact on the performing arts. He not only reinvented the American musical, but provides an oasis for those of us parched by the dearth of sophistication and wit in the age of the jukebox musical.

The series continues every Saturday at 7 p.m. CST via Porchlight’s Facebook page. Look for Jessie Mueller, David Cromer, Klea Blackhurst, James Earl Jones II, and other incredible guests.

West Side Story (already on vimeo)

Weber and his guests Gary Griffin (director of Broadway’s The Color Purple, The Apple Tree and Honeymoon in Vegas and London’s Pacific Overtures for which he received the Olivier Award), Mark Hoebee (producing artistic director of Paper Mill Playhouse) and Diana Martinez (director at McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage) discuss West Side Story, the musical retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Sondheim’s Broadway debut as a lyricist.

Sunday in the Park with George (already on vimeo)

In the second episode, Weber is joined by Nick Bowling (founding artistic director of TimeLine Theatre Company and director of the Chicago premiere of Porchlight Music Theatre’s Sondheim on Sondheim), David Cromer (director of The Band’s Visit) and Heidi Kettenring (Sunday in the Park with George at Chicago Shakespeare and Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane). They will discuss Sunday in the Park with George, music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the production that was inspired by Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Follies (Saturday, May 9)

This week’s episode highlights Follies, music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Goldman, which was inspired by a New York Times article about a gathering of former showgirls from the Ziegfeld Follies. The Follies roundtable includes Weber and guests David H. Bell (multi-award-winning director whose credits include Broadway, Off Broadway, Carnegie Hall, The National Theatre, London’s West End and The Kennedy Center) ), Gary Griffin (director of Broadway’s The Color Purple, The Apple Tree and Honeymoon in Vegas and London’s Pacific Overtures for which he received the Olivier Award) and Hollis Resnik (multi-award-winning actor whose appearances include Porchlight’s Sunset Boulevard, Sweeney Todd, Follies, Into the Woods and A Little Night Music).

Gypsy, a Musical Fable (Saturday, May 16)

Here she is, world! This week’s episode delves into Gypsy, for which Sondeim wrote lyrics with music by Jule Styne and a book by Arthur Laurents. Weber’s guests include Klea Blackhurst (Gypsy at Drury Lane Theatre and known for her award- winning tribute to Ethel Merman: Everything The Traffic Will Allow), E. Faye Butler (Porchlight’s own Jeff Award-winning “Madame Rose”) and Marc Robin (Artistic Director of Pennsylvania’s historic Fulton Theatre).

Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Saturday, May 23)

The man behind the demon barber of Fleet Street is the focus of this week’s episode, Sweeney Todd, music and lyrics by Sondheim and a book by Hugh Wheeler. The guests scheduled to appear include Jim Corti, (Artistic Director of Paramount Theatre and recipient of the Jeff Award for his direction of Sweeney Todd whose Broadway credits include Candide, A Chorus Line, Music Is and Ragtime), David Girolmo (Jeff Award-winning actor whose work on Broadway includes War Paint and Candide and who appeared as the title character in Porchlight’s Sweeney Todd) and James Earl Jones II (Currently in the national tour of Come From Away and Jeff Award-nominee for Porchlight’s Sondheim by Sondheim).

Into the Woods (Saturday, May 30)

This week’s episode is about Sondheim’s modern twist on the Grimm fairy tales, Into the Woods, music and lyrics by Sondheim and book by James Lapine. David Cromer (MacArthur fellow and Tony Award-winning director of The Band’s Visit), Sean Allan Krill (currently in the cast of Jagged Little Pill and whose other Broadway credits include Honeymoon in Vegas, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and Mamma Mia) and Jessie Mueller (Jeff Award and Tony Award-winning star of Broadway’s Beautiful: the Carole King Musical, Waitress, Carousel, Mystery of Edwin Drood and The Minutes) join Weber for a journey to a far-off kingdom.

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