Tag Archives: theater

Save the small theaters!

Oh man.  Another small theater is taken out of commission.  I just learned that Climate Theater has lost its lease and is moving operations to the Traveling Jewish Theater.  Chloe Veltman covered it on her blog.  (Somehow I keep crossing paths with Chloe Veltman.  I think I only met her in person once, very brieflyContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Channeling my inner Merman

In the great canon of musical theater and opera roles, there are a few numbers that every actor/actress aspires to perform. Show stopping, scenery chewing, career making moments that put all of your talents on display for the world to see. The finale of Cabaret, Ya Got Trouble from the Music Man, and my personalContinue Reading

One Response to Channeling my inner Merman

  1. Matt Cohen says:

    Sounds like it should be very funny. Break legs!

    I saw that production of Gypsy. Sam Mendes… what more do you need to know? It wasn’t as noteworthy as his Cabaret, but it was still very well done.

Leave a reply

Richard Foreman bails on theater

Looks like Richard Foreman was serious this time. He’s not doing anymore theater productions. I’m damn glad I caught Idiot Savant last year at Joe’s Pub. I’ve been a big fan of Foreman’s work since I went to see Lumberjack Messiah on a complete whim five years ago. Now I see whatever is playing atContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Review: …and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi

There’s a lot to like in Marcus Gardley’s …And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, a co-production of Playwright’s Foundation and Cutting Ball Theater. There’s a top notch cast, a beautiful set, gorgeous integration of very well sung spirituals, and more than a few breathtaking moments. It is, perhaps, an embarrassment of riches, and at the risk ofContinue ReadingContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius (part 2)

Gah!  I would have published this earlier, but I spent two evenings tearing my house apart trying to find a photograph of me and Sondheim taken when I was in the ensemble for the 2001 PBS production of Sweeney Todd in Concert. I’m a bit freaked out that I haven’t been able to find itContinue ReadingContinue Reading

11 Responses to Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius (part 2)

  1. gerald rosen says:

    I knew it!!

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    You did? Well, that makes one of us. I was actually reordering up until pretty late in the game.

  3. Gina says:

    Absolutely loved this. Read every word and even listened to the clips. (“Even” because I’ve heard the music many times and knew which bits you were referencing even before you went into detail.) There were only a few things on your list that I already noticed, so it was wonderful to find out about the others. No doubt it helps to play an instrument/be a composer yourself.

    Bookmarking your page because I have much appreciation for a good theatre-related blog. There aren’t not enough out there. I’m always tempted to make one, but I really don’t know as much as I’d like to, unfortunately.

  4. Brian Rosen says:


    That’s the main reason I started this one. At first I thought, “what the heck do I have to say that other, more qualified people haven’t already said.” But I realized that a) I haven’t found many folks writing about this stuff and b) this would be a good way to introduce my own friends to the stuff that I care about.

    Thanks for reading…

  5. EricMontreal says:

    Great list, especially appreciated having the clips, even though I knew the music by heart, there were still some great revelations. I hate to complain with the typical “where’s [my fave show]” but I admit I missed not having anything from Company, Pacific Overtures and Passion, particularly.

    “It’s easy to imagine that it was the producer’s fear that audiences wouldn’t realize that a second act existed that led to the narrator’s non-sequitor interjection “To be continued!” right before the last chord of the act.”

    And that’s exactly what was done–in the original San Diego workshop audiences were leaving after Act I. I believe the line was thrown in some weeks into the Broadway production, in fact.

  6. Elliott says:

    I agree with ErikMontreal; the lack of Pacific Overtures, Passion, and Company was slightly saddening, but this was still a great read. 😀 Well done!

  7. Sister says:

    I can’t believe the falling chandelier didn’t make the top 10.

  8. Adam says:

    This was wonderful…thank you for writing it!

  9. Brian Rosen says:

    Adam, thanks for reading it! It was a fun one to put together.

  10. Wow, what a great essay. I am so with you about the chord at the end of Sweeney’s Ephiphany. What an amazing thing to do. It reminds me somewhat of the out-of-key chords at the end of Don José’s Flower Song, the way that the music communicates that this guy has departed the world that most of us live in and has encamped himself very firmly on the planet of his own obsession.

    I did see the first Broadway production of Sunday in the Park, and saw it before the cast album had come out, too, so hardly anybody in the audience including me knew any of the music and words yet. There are some things about that show that irritated me, but boy, watching the first act finale unfold without realizing quite what was coming was incredibly powerful.

  11. Charisma says:

    Wow, that was a wonderful read. It really exposed some nuances I hadn’t noticed at all before. I’ve just recently been getting into Sondheim, saw Sweeny Todd, Into The Woods and A Little Night Music (some live dvd’s and recordings), and I must say that Mrs. Lovett’s rendition of “Nothing’s gonna harm you…” back to Toby gave me shivers and was musically maybe the most impactful part of the show for me. I noticed the major dissonances in the two other parts you mentioned, though not in such exacting detail, and I hate the versions I heard where they removed that from the epiphany and make it meld ~ it’s so wrong for the play.

    I didn’t notice what was going on in the explanation that it’s okay to kill the giant and not the steward, though I must say the song always seemed to highlight for me how alone the giantess is, and how alone the witch is. I didn’t even notice those connecting “discovery” notes, nor the continuation of the waltz meter in A Little Night Music. I’m going to come back and read the other parts once I’ve watched those musicals. Maybe you could do a sort of sequel to this highlighting one favorite musical + theatrical moment in each of Sondheim’s plays (other than the one’s included in the top ten)? Thanks for the detail!

Leave a reply

Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius

In honor of the eightieth birthday of the greatest musical theater writer/composer to ever live, I’ve gone ahead and curated the 10 most brilliant moments in a body of work that is chock full of genius.  For purposes of this list, I’ve tried to identify specific moments, as opposed to stretches of time or entireContinue ReadingContinue Reading

7 Responses to Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius

  1. gerald rosen says:

    One of my favorite all-time lyrics from Sweeney Todd; “with or without his privates.”

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    Ahh…that gives me an idea for my next list, Top Ten Funniest Moments in Sondheim. That should be easier to write.

  3. Dave Moschler says:

    Brian, thanks for sharing this very well-written list and all the great recordings of each selection! I have to admit I was extremely disheartened not to see “Opening Doors” (or anything) from Merrily We Roll Along on the list (or “Someone in a Tree” from Pacific Overtures). Did Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods really deserve to occupy half of the list (and on that note is no. 7 a moment of genius)?

    I think you hit the nail on the head for Assassins though . . . always thought one of the most powerful moments of the show when Booth drops the N-bomb as well as the march from El Capitan rewritten. Thanks again for the post!

  4. Brian Rosen says:

    Dave, ya caught me. Merrily and Pacific Overtures are the two Sondheim shows I’ve never seen produced, so I can’t really speak to them. As for no. 7, I wrestled with that, but I decided to specifically single out those last measures of Moment’s In the Woods as “the” moment of genius in that whole discovery song concept. I think it’s the only time that Red’s theme comes back unaltered.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    How wonderful to read this post via a link posted on All that Chat. Great to get your insights.

    And the Act I closer for Sunday? It was my first Broadway show. With the characters stepping into their final positions, the painting scrim dropping with the actors aligned perfectly behind it, and the music swelling, I literally starting heaving tears. It’s one of the most brilliant piece of theatre ever.

  6. Brian Rosen says:

    Jeffrey, totally with ya there. I never got to see it on broadway, but even just reviewing the video while writing this post, I started tearing up. Ooops…did I just say that out loud?

  7. Noel Katz says:

    I very much enjoyed your analysis, and it brings to mind a similar explication of musical devices my wife did long before I met her: hearing about it was the first time marriage entered my mind.

    I’ll pick a bone with the Into the Woods songs of discovery. Yes, they’re connected by similar accompaniments, but, for me, this is something that made me go, in the theatre, “Haven’t we heard this one already?” A character telling the audience what he’s learned (from a familiar fairy tale, no less) is not my idea of effective entertainment. Ideally, we feel for the characters, so when they go through a dramatic arc, we feel what they feel, discover what they discover. Jack, Little Red and Cinderella announce to us that they’ve learned something profound, and Here It Is. But what they’ve learned isn’t profound or surprising enough, and it annoys me that an otherwise swiftly-told plot is being stopped for an ersatz revelation.

    In weaker Sondheim shows, I find myself not caring about the characters. The mob that claims to have saved Roosevelt are all very frenetic, but I was wholly unmoved, unclear as to what the show as a whole was saying about Americans. Or, I guess, the .0001% of us who shoot at politicians. How could you expect Booth NOT to drop the n-word? We already knew, from the history books, of his vile view.

    But I come here to praise: the torch song Losing My Mind takes familiar elements – the structure of Gershwin’s The Man I Love, the melodic motif of Rodgers’ He Was Too Good To Me – sets them to an ever augmenting chord structure, while the lyric talks about stasis. That’s crazy. Crazy good.

    When I think of the myriad paeans to my hometown, Sondheim’s Another Hundred People rises near the top. The busy synth paints the pace of the city, and each key change involving the singer sustaining an enharmonic, is a delightful surprise. Similarly, I get ecstatic about the harmonies under the lines “And the life moving on” in Move On.

    I love me a good quodlibet, and Sondheim wrote a couple of delights for the young ghosts in Follies. First came Who Could Be Blue?/Little White House, the tune of which is better known from its reuse in Stavisky. This was replaced by Love Will See Us Through/You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, a deliciously cheerful output for Sondheim’s natural cynicism about marriages.

Leave a reply

When theater is a joke. Or vice versa.

There’s a fine line between a practical joke and engaging theater. This video (courtesy of the always entertaining Mind the Gap blog) documents an elaborate prank the likes of which could only be organized in the name of global commerce and fermented barley beverages. 1,000 soccer fans were forced to miss a championship game byContinue Reading

Leave a reply

Too Much Workshop Makes the Weekend Go Fast

Every time I’m in New York, I make it a point to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.  Every time.   And I try to drag as many friends as possible (as any of my Facebook friends who live in NY can attest.) One visit I went to both weekend shows.  ThisContinue Reading

Leave a reply

So… why Music vs Theater?

Music vs Theater. What the heck do I mean by that? Is it a lawsuit? A wrestling match? A fight to the death? When I was pitching potential blog titles to my friends, some were confused by the implications of this particular one. After all, I’m trying to make works of music and theater, whyContinue Reading

4 Responses to So… why Music vs Theater?

  1. Carol Rosen says:

    I got here from FB today! I’m really enjoying this. Reminds of the few and far between chats we have when we’re together. Now, I’ll be able to hear more from you on a regular basis!
    I had a little bit of a clue about what you meant by music vs. theater, based on what I’ve heard from you before.
    Keep it going, Bri!

  2. Sean Gugler says:

    What I like about your choice to use “vs.” is how it illuminates two ancient, epic forces locked in opposition. Unlike street scuffles or betting bouts, the spectators are drawn by the conflict itself rather than the outcome. We cherish the eternal stalemate, drawing us again and again to eagerly witness the passionate struggle for dominance. No animosity required, either; even Sam and Ralph enjoy lunch together when they’ve punched off the clock. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_and_Sheepdog)

    Great use of chromaspectography, too. (Watch as I ruin the solitude of Google’s lone hit for that word!)

  3. Madley says:

    Hi there — I got here from Thomas Cott’s “You’ve Cott Mail” — how lucky am I?! I’m also a composer and playwright — I LOVE that I’ve found someone else in that combination category! It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged and/or written anything (health reasons), but bouncing around in here has inspired me again. Looking forward to reading more–

Leave a reply

Upcoming Event: Failing That Workshop Presentation

Failing That: A Minor Tragedy (excerpt) 7pm February 28th Stagewerx Theater 533 Sutter St (at Powell) San Francisco, CA 94102   I’ll be performing a 25 minute excerpt from Failing That as part of the Stage Werx Solo Sunday festival on February 28th.  This excerpt will follow the arc of Steven Scafidi as he finds himselfContinue Reading

Leave a reply