Tag Archives: Stephen Sondheim

Audition Valor

I love to audition.

That sounds insane but it’s true, and it’s always been true. If it involves speaking and/or singing I’m in heaven. If it involves dancing…well…I might be busy that day.little-night-music-01 My point is; it takes no special bravery, or any bravery at all, for me to show up for an audition. I think it’s a pretty jolly time.

I know this is not true for everyone and I admire those performers who persist in auditioning in the face of dread. That’s bravery. The bravest audition I ever witnessed was one evening in 1987 in the Guignol Theatre at the University of Kentucky.

Eric is a great friend of mine. He is a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor. He can also carry a tune, but in his mind at the time, as a singer…he was a fine illustrator/water-colorist and a fine actor.

One afternoon we were chatting and I mentioned that I would be auditioning that night for Sondheim’s A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. I urged him to join me. He dismissed the suggestion summarily; “I’m no singer!” He looked a little pale at the suggestion. Always sympathetic (not), I made a mental note that if I ever had to express utter dread on the stage his reaction to the thought of a singing audition would be a good reference memory (an actor prepares, right?).

That evening, about an hour into the auditions, I was sitting in the last row of the theatre watching the efforts of others. I had already sung and read a few scenes and was foolishly longing to be asked to read another 20-30 scenes – did I mention I love to audition?

BANG!

The door to the theatre flew open and Grimness and Ferocity entered, personified by my friend Eric. He commandeered (commandeered – yes – le mot juste) an audition form from the stage manager, and slouched into a seat as far from humanity as the Guignol allows. All evidence suggested to me that it would be prudent to leave him the hell alone.

He was called upon to read a couple of scenes.

Then he was called upon to sing.

He marched on the stage and waved the provided accompanist away with; “I won’t be needing you.” He then announced; “This is my favorite Christmas Carol.” He proceeded to sing/declaim an acapella rendition of “Good King Wenceslas” that was loud, in tune, and capable of being marched to by any competent armed forces unit.

It was stunning and strange and perfect for Carl-Magnus in the show.

I understood what it had cost him and I was proud to know him…and maybe a little relieved to know he was not a concealed-carry type of guy.

His reward for his valor?

He was cast.

He and I shared a duet in the second act. It was singled out by the reviewer as one of the highlights of that year’s theatre season in Lexington.

My reward for his valor?

I now have a new favorite Christmas carol.

Magical Legends & Legumes

Movie night!

INTO THE WOODS.

I liked it…a lot.

Meryl Streep is impossible to look away from – nothing new in that. I am always amazed at the energy, imagination, and range of Ms. Streep in the projects she chooses. Hell, I think I was the first one standing at the opening night of the film version of MAMMA MIA at the Kentucky Theater. It was a brave choice and I loved her performance.

The songs in this show are engaging and clever – nothing new in that. It’s Stephen Sondheim.

The stories Sondheim mashed up to create the narrative of INTO THE WOODS are some of the most exciting stories ever told…and told and told. Again, nothing new here. Giants, witches, philandering princes, magical legumes, senior-citizen-devouring wolves; this is the stuff of legends. Oh wait, they are legends.

I will watch this film for the rest of my life, perhaps in bits and pieces as I stumble across it while channel-surfing, but I’ll watch it from now on and happily so.

But let’s be honest. There’s nothing new here. Nothing has been added to the luster of Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, or Little Red Riding Hood. It’s simply cultural comfort food.

And I’m OK with that. I watch old films over and over, and indulge in cutting-edge speculations as to what Frank Capra could have done with a Godzilla film. But I also wonder what would happen if Mr. Sondheim wrote something totally new…specifically for film…specifically for Meryl Streep. That, for me, would be wandering into a woods wonderful and unknown and scary and thrilling.

I’d like that…a lot.