I still can't quote believe it. Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich came to Tulsa last Monday night as part of the University of Tulsa's Presidential Lecture Series. And I was there.
Back in 2000, to commemorate Sondheim's 70th birthday, Rich began a series of conversations with him to talk about Sondheim's life and career and the state of American musical theater. You can read about them here. And now, ten years later, they are doing a limited number of engagements across the United States. The format is simple. They sit in chairs and have a conversation, with Rich asking questions and Sondheim answering. Monday night felt like sitting in on a conversation between old friends! And as a fan of Sondheim's for decades, it was an especially sweet evening. I sat there grinning like an idiot for most of the night. My favorite Sondheim moments:
- Stories of growing up with Oscar Hammerstein as a mentor and godfather.
- Describing what it was like to see "Oklahoma!" for the first time.
- Cracking up with Rich as they described attempts to "fix" Sondheim's shows by overly ambitious college theater department heads. One changed "Merrily We Roll Along" to go forward chronologically in time. One had Bobby shoot himself in the head at the end of "Being Alive." Funny stuff.
- Describing the writing process for the song "Sunday in the Park with George."
- The story of writing "Rose's Turn" and introducing it to Ethel Merman.