Side By Side By Sondheim
a revue in two acts. Original narration by Ned Sherrin. Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim with music also by Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne.
First produced at the Mermaid Theatre, London, 4 May 1976 and subsequently transferred to Wyndham's Theatre, London, 7 July 1976 with Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, David Kernan and Ned Sherrin. Produced at the Music Box, New York, 18 April 1977 with Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, David Kernan and Ned Sherrin.
The evening opens with an opening number - or, rather, two of them: a real curtain raiser - Comedy Tonight - and a discarded one - Love Is in the Air With the air clear and the Three Singers safely positioned on their stools, the Narrator begins the difficult task of defining the entertainment before us: more a show than a play, on the whole, and devoted to the songs of one man, Stephen Sondheim.
Like any dramatist, Sondheim has his favourite themes, among them marriage. In a quartet of songs on the subject, the daughters of a monstrous stage mother reflect (to Jule Styne's music) on how easier life would be If Momma Was Married; next, a middle-aged man tells his former lover, You Must Meet My Wife - perfect in every way, though an indefatigable virgin; then, a modern couple note that it's The Little Things You Do Together that keep a relationship alive; finally, on her wedding day a radiant bride decides that she's Not Getting Married Today.
To leaven the diet of songs known and loved, the Narrator introduces a couple of obscurities: one, a number from a musical seen once and once only on ABC TV on 16 November 1966; the other, a reject from "Follies", dumped after the Boston tryout. In the first, a department store hermit attempts to recall the outside world (I Remember); the second is a rousing declaration: Can That Boy Foxtrot!
Sondheim is a sharp delineator of smart contemporary Manhattan, brought vividly to life in a selection from "Company": the title song Company, Another Hundred People, Barcelona and Being Alive. In contrast, the next scene transports us to Vienna at the turn of the century and a brothel, whose versatile Madam boasts I Never Do Anything Twice. The first act concludes with a salute to Sondheim's predecessors in the shape of his affectionate pastiches of Irving Berlin (Beautiful Girls), ooh-la-la cabaret (Ah, Paree!), vaudevillian razzle-dazzle (Buddy's Blues), DeSylva, Brown and Henderson (Broadway Baby) and the Andrews Sisters (You Could Drive a Person Crazy).
The trio of singers return to protest at a world where you can't disturb the peace or walk on the grass: Everybody Says Don't. The Narrator reminds us of Sondheim's own versified protest against airline food - "The shiny stuff is tomatoes/The salad lies in a group" - before ushering in two of the composer's simplest and most affecting ballads, Anyone Can Whistle and Send In the Clowns. We all want absolute happiness, but maybe, like everything else, it's comparative: We're Gonna Be All Right, two people determine (to Richard Rodgers' music); their marriage is in a desperate state, but it's nothing to the trouble their friends are in.
There follows a trio of Sondheim lyrics to the music of others: with Leonard Bernstein, A Boy Like That and I Have a Love; with Mary Rodgers, The Boy From a little Spanish town called Tacarimba La Tumba Del Fuego Santa Maliga Sacategas Lo Onto Del Sol Y Cruz. That and the rest of the lyric was written by Sondheim under the pseudonym Esteban Ria Nido. After the exotic Latin rhythms, something earthier: a trio of Jolly Jack Tars proposition a Pretty Lady and a trio of well-worn burlesque strippers advise (to Jule Styne's music) that You Gotta Get a Gimmick. Then, "three soliloquies packed with emotion and imagery": Losing My Mind, Could I Leave You? and four decades of American social history in a single song, I'm Still Here.
As a grand finale, the company compress 27 Sondheim lyrics into one Conversation Piece, beginning with a request to Let Us Entertain You and leading via Maria, All I Need is the Girl and The Ladies Who Lunch to a joyous reprise of Comedy Tonight.
There are THREE SINGERS - two female, one male - and a non-singing NARRATOR.
- Comedy Tonight [from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum] / Love is in the Air [cut from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum]
- If Momma Was Married [from Gypsy]
- You Must Meet My Wife [from A Little Night Music]
- The Little Things You Do Together [from Company]
- Getting Married Today [from Company]
- I Remember [from Evening Primrose]
- Can That Boy Foxtrot! [cut from Follies]
- Company / Another Hundred People [from Company]
- Barcelona [from Company]
- Being Alive [from Company]
- I Never Do Anything Twice [from The Seven Per Cent Solution]
- Beautiful Girls [from Follies] (mistakenly titled Bring on the Girls)
- Ah, Paree! [from Follies]
- Buddy's Blues [from Follies]
- Broadway Baby [from Follies]
- You Could Drive a Person Crazy [from Company]
- Everybody Says Don't [from Anyone Can Whistle]
- Anyone Can Whistle [from Anyone Can Whistle]
- Send in the Clowns [from A Little Night Music]
- We're Gonna Be All Right [lyrics restored; from Do I Hear A Waltz?]
- Duet (A Boy Like That / I Have a Love) [from West Side Story]
- The Boy From... [from The Mad Show]
- There is No Other Way [from Pacific Overtures]
- Pretty Lady [from Pacific Overtures]
- You Gotta Have a Gimmick [from Gypsy]
- Losing My Mind [from Follies]
- Could I Leave You? [from Follies]
- I'm Still Here [from Follies]
- Conversation Piece [medley, arranged by Caryl Brahms and Stuart Pedlar]
- Side By Side By Side [from Company]
RCA VICTOR GD 81851 Original Cast