LP0275. SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM, Original 1976 London Cast, w.Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, David Kernan. [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.] 2-RCA CBL2-1851, in gatefold jacket.
“Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, was an intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths, Mr. Sondheim was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular. His work melded words and music in a way that enhanced them both.
The first Broadway show for which Mr. Sondheim wrote both the words and music, the farcical 1962 comedy A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, won a Tony Award for best musical and went on to run for more than two years.
In the history of the theater, only a handful could call Mr. Sondheim peer. The list of major theater composers who wrote words to accompany their own scores (and vice versa) is a short one - it includes Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Jerry Herman and Noël Coward.
He wrote speechifying soliloquies, conversational duets and chattery trios and quartets. He exploited time signatures and forms; for NIGHT MUSIC, he wrote a waltz, two sarabandes, two mazurkas, a polonaise, an étude and a gigue — nearly an entire score written in permutations of triple time.
WEST SIDE STORY, in 1957, became one of Broadway’s most beloved and celebrated shows. In 1993, Mr. Sondheim received the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement, and in 2015 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. In 2008, he was given a Tony Award for lifetime achievement, and in 2010, in perhaps the ultimate show business accolade, a Broadway house on West 43rd Street, Henry Miller’s Theater, was renamed in his honor.
Mr. Sondheim liked to think of himself less as a songwriter than as a playwright, albeit one who wrote very short plays and set them to music. His lyrics, scrupulously literate and resonant with complex ideas or emotional ambivalence, were often impossibly clever but rarely only clever; his language was sometimes erudite but seldom purple. He was a world-class rhyming gymnast, not just at the ends of lines but within them. I certainly feel out of the mainstream because what’s happened in musicals is corporate and cookie-cutter stuff. And if I’m out of fashion, I’m out of fashion. Being a maverick isn’t just about being different. It’s about having your vision of the way a show might be.”
- Bruce Weber, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 26 Nov, 2021
“This is an extremely fine and well-conceived exploration of the theatre's finest musical dramatist. The cast do great justice to a very well-chosen programme of Sondheim's work up to and including PACIFIC OVERTURES. They are very individual performers, each contributing something special to the proceedings. Kernan possesses a glorious voice, warm and extremely sensitive. His rendition of the highly evocative ‘I Remember’ would be hard to better; he also shows great skill in his gay version of ‘Could I Leave You’ which has never sounded funnier. Julia McKenzie, showing ample evidence of her claim to being England's premier Sondheim interpreter, gives an extremely well thought-out version of ‘Broadway Baby’, and her ‘Losing My Mind’ is magic. Perhaps my personal favourite of these fine performers on this occasion is Millicent Martin, who shows a remarkable range of emotional attack, from an hilarious ‘The Boy From...’ to a beautiful ‘Send In The Clowns’ to a wonderfully dry and bare ‘I'm Still Here’. Throughout all this fun, the two pianists give great support; in many ways, the spare accompaniament allows Sondheim's tremendous lyrics to shine through with uneuqalled clarity. All in all, do not miss this set. It's worth buying just for ‘Pretty Lady’. Gorgeous!”
- Ned Ludd