Saturday, October 18, 2014

Movie Review: Six by Sondheim

This is an HBO 2013 documentary special about the career of Stephen Sondheim.  James Lapine, who often wrote with Sondheim directed and produced.   It focuses specifically on six songs, but tells a much broader story.  Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein and his wife.  His first break came when he wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, with Hammerstein writing the music.  They particularly focused on "Somethings Coming," a song added to the beginning of the musical to introduce Tony, and to put him in a sympathetic light.  
Sondheim describes his writing as being a difficult process, with delving into the characters, to come up with the style and lyrics the characters would use.  Hammerstein taught him that a song has a beginning, middle and end, but also must move the story along. 
The documentary also focused on "Opening Doors"  from Merrily We Roll Along.  This is the closest to an autobiographical musical, as it explores persons who are struggling to make it in the Broadway business.  One song was about the piece being hummable, which concept Sondheim did not like. 
"Send in the Clowns"  from A Little Night Music was an after thought type of song, added so the character Desiree could explain her disappointments.  The documentary showed many different artsts singing part of this song; it has been covered many times.
"Being Alive" from Company is Sondheim, who was not married, explaining why marriage is important.  He had asked many of his friends about marriage.
Carlotta, a woman who has been through the entertainment world for many years sings "I'm Still Here" from Follies.  The song was written at the last, and took the place of "That Boy can Foxtrot."  Sondheim felt that song wasn't working, as it was humorous, but quickly got old.  The new lyrics are a list of things the character had gone through, and she is "still here/"
"Sunday" Sunday in the Park with George Sondheim explains has almost a funeral type feel, but it is not a funeral song, but a bit more. 
Broadway Baby from Follies plays as the credits are given, giving this production a seventh song.

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