Monday, May 31, 2010

So many people in the world don't know what they've missed

The program for Sondheim on Sondheim, a revue now playing at the Roundabout Theatre Company's Studio 54, includes a "musical chronology" listing all of Stephen Sondheim's shows and the songs from each that the audience is about to hear. As she waited for the show to begin, the woman behind me perused this list. "Wait a minute," she said to her companion, "It says here 'Children Will Listen' is from Into the Woods. Is that right? Because it's also in Ragtime."

If reading that caused you to snort derisively, then you, like me, are probably an insufferable musical-theatre geek and/or snob. If you didn't react that way (and are wondering what the joke is), you must belong to the vast majority of humankind that isn't entirely sure who Stephen Sondheim is, or why you should care. There are two kinds of people in the world, in other words. Some of us are keenly aware that Mr. Stephen Sondheim celebrated his eightieth birthday this year and have been wondering whether we personally are doing enough to mark the occasion. And the rest of you are more like the woman behind me, who at intermission turned to her friend and said, "So, I guess this Stephen Sondheim must still be alive."

Sondheim on Sondheim tries, quixotically, to satisfy both groups at once.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Insert naughty pun here

As someone who always sort of hated Sex and the City, I am really enjoying looking on as the critics trash this new movie. My impression -- and I absolutely will not see the film to confirm this, as I can't even make it through a TV ad without hitting "mute" -- is that the movie does away with any and all of the series' laudable traits and leaves just the stuff I always found so irritating: the shallowness; the superficiality; the dreadful puns; the empty-headed social "commentary"; the total unlikability of the main character; the insistence that I should care about shoes when I so, so don't. So the things the critics pick on in their (hilarious) reviews sound to me like backward-looking critiques of the whole enterprise, even when they're prefaced by lamentations that this once-great franchise is going out on such a low note. Take this, from Boston Globe critic Ty Burr: