Saturday, 4 December 2021

Sondheim of the Day finale - Side by Side by Sondheim and other random oddities

As introductions to the magnificent repertoire of Stephen Sondheim go, I must admit that Side By Side By Sondheim is possibly the finest. As I mentioned way back in chapter #1 of this rambling (more than a) week-long series of tributes to The Maestro, it was through listening to Madam Acarti's double CD of said classic revue - the brainchild of That Was The Week That Was producer Ned Sherrin, in response to a commission from none other than Dame Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth back in 1976 - that I gathered an understanding, and a nuanced appreciation, of the work of a true genius in the world of musical theatre. Basically, before that point I knew the song Send in the Clowns and the "hits" from West Side Story, and that was just about it.

Gathering the brilliantly talented combo of Sondheimites Julia McKenzie, Millicent Martin and David Kernan together, with connecting narration from Mr Sherrin himself, the revue covers everything from the popular and the well-known, to more obscure and rare numbers by The Maestro.

From Company there's the eponymous number Company, The Little Things You Do Together, Another Hundred People, (Not) Getting Married Today, Barcelona, You Could Drive a Person Crazy and Side By Side By Side. From Follies, there's Bring on the Girls, Ah, Paree!, Buddy's Blues, Broadway Baby, Losing My Mind, [David Kernan's "gay" version of] Could I Leave You? and I'm Still Here. From Gypsy, If Momma Was Married and You Gotta Get a Gimmick; and from West Side Story, A Boy Like That/ I Have a Love.

Then there's the less well-known ones - some of which have become firm favourites here at Dolores Delargo Towers, such as this one from the film The Seven Percent Solution [originally sung by our Patron Saint Régine; here done rather differently]:

Even more obscure, this one came from a weird-sounding US television show called Evening Primrose, about drop-outs who live in a department store [very 1967!]:

This fantabulosa number is from Do I Hear a Waltz?, with music by Richard Rodgers:

The next two were dropped from (respectively) Company, and from Follies:

From Anyone Can Whistle, the title song and this:

And, from a show that hasn't played in London since 2003, Pacific Overtures, this:

Leaving the best to last, however - also included in the melange was another particular favorite of ours, a song that was written for yet another revue [bizarrely based on Mad Magazine; a collaboration with Richard Rodgers' daughter Mary] - here as part two of a faboo skit by Kit and the Widow [Part one being just too good not to feature!]:

We went to se a revival of the show at "the Venue" (now The Leicester Square Theatre) - gosh! - fourteen years ago, which we thought was faboo, if not a patch on the original (what could be?)

Read more about Side by Side by Sondheim at

In 1992, combined pressures from Cameron Mackintosh and Julia McKenzie persuaded Mr Sondheim to do a "updated version" of the 1976 classic.

Titled Putting It Together, it actually only featured four songs from Side by Side (Marry Me a Little, You Could Drive a Person Crazy - this time in first person "I" - (Not) Getting Married Today and Could I Leave You?). From A Little Night Music it featured Every Day a Little Death (with another song dropped from most performances of that show My Husband the Pig), Now, Night Waltzes, Country House, Bang and The Miller's Son; from Company, Have I Got a Girl for You, Sorry-Grateful and Being Alive; Pretty Women and Sweet Polly Plunkett from Sweeney Todd; Hello Little Girl from Into The Woods; and The Gun Song from Assassins.

Also woven into the mix were songs from a Sondheim show we've never been to see A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, including my fave:

From another Sondheim show we've never seen Sunday in the Park with George, the number that inspired the revue's title...

...and two from Dick Tracy:

More about Putting It Together

The revue also featured numbers from a couple of productions that we did actually go and see...

Merrily We Roll Along is a very clever conceit - based as it is on a satirical play from the Depression era by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, the show's narrative runs entirely in reverse; from the opening scenes of embittered individuals, forcibly and callously cast aside by the lead character (and former friend) Franklin Shepard in his quest for fortune and success, to the closing ensemble numbers where the group are all young and idealistic and very much a "gang" of like-minded characters just setting out on their uncertain destinies.

We and our own "gang" went to see it in its Olivier-award-winning revival by Sondheimite Maria Friedman at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2013.

It is a phenomenal show, with a clutch of excellent songs, such as these...

And then, there's this - a genuinely heart-wrenching number if ever there was one!

[Another one of Sondheim's that's become a bit of a "standard" in its own right, and has been recorded by Bernadette Peters, Judy Collins, La Streisand, Mandy Patinkin, Cleo Laine and even Jane McDonald]

Read a rather good article about the show by arts professor Laurence Maslon, or else Wikipedia

And the other show?

It's probably more famous for this number than anything...'s a musical "freely adapted from" the writings of the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes, involving the God of Wine Dionysus, Hades and the resurrected spirits of George Bernard Shaw and William Shakespeare - The Frogs. Again, only Stephen Sondheim could have possibly come up with this idea!

We caught it at its first UK production since the 1990s (and its West End première; bearing in mind this was a show that begain its life - in a swimming pool in Yale University with Meryl Streep among its cast - in 1974) at the bijou Jermyn Street Theatre in 2017. Ever since then, "Brek-kek-kek-kek" has become a bit of mantra for us - it made such an impression! Here's some grainy footage of the faboo Nathan Lane in (I believe) his own revised production in 2004:

All about The Frogs at Music Theatre International

And finally...

...the best tribute a Maestro could expect:

RIP, Stephen Joshua Sondheim (22nd March 1930 – 26th November 2021)

[The final one of a series of tributes I have posted to Mr Sondheim this week.]
Previous "Sondheim of the Day" entries:


  1. I was hoping this would go on forever.... or until you'd exhausted his catalog. Thanks dear. This was a lovely, fitting tribute. Bravo.

    1. To be fair my dear, I have featured something from every show Sondheim produced except Saturday Night and Passion, and much more besides. How much more do you want?!

      I have enjoyed "putting it together", anyhow! Jx

  2. Thank you Jon for this brilliant tribute series. Your homage to Mr Sondheim has been beautifully constructed and expressed.

    (As one who quietly follows you from afar, might I say your ramblings have given me great pleasure in their shared intimacy of your group, the introduction to many unknown by me, and maybe many others, to artistes and performers I would never have known about, and discovering those wonderful zanies who comment on your various tomes. Thanks again for all your effort over the years. Just fantastic.

    1. Heavens, Mr/Ms Unknown - praise, indeed! Thank you for your comments.

      Always good to know there is an audience out there outside of the "regulars"... Jx

  3. Gosh and what a finale to your week long tribute.
    Fab U Lous !

    1. I guess you would enjoy this week-long series - Sondheim is a bit of a god here at Dolores Delargo Towers, after all... Jx

  4. Oh, this "regular" was a bit of a lurker in the early days.
    I'll be having a delicious Sondheim wallow through your selections. And it will be good to hear Julia McK singing again.
    I do miss the West End sometimes...

    1. We love living in London for that very reason - the sheer range and volume of theatrical (and other) entertainments on offer is unbeatable! Even Broadway can't compete (and at any one time, British musicals - or at least, as in the case of the Menier Choclate Factory creative team, British productions of US musicals - are at the forefront of the NY theatre scene). Jx


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