Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Everybody rise.

Best thing seen on television in a long, long while (not that I watch much): PBS's Great Performances broadcast of the Stephen Sondheim 80th birthday concert from the Lincoln Center. (Yeah, I know, even then it was merely TV coverage of a live stage show.)

Best thing in it: Very hard to choose, especially when you have 84-year-old Elaine Stritch doing "I'm Still Here" as if it's her autobiography, Patti LuPone owning "The Ladies Who Lunch" (with gracious deference to Ms. Stritch), and Donna Murphy knocking it out of the park with "Could I Leave You?"

But I'm going to opt for Audra McDonald's unforgettable performance of "The Glamorous Life" from A Little Night Music. This isn't the song from the original 1973 production, but an inspired reworking written for the generally disappointing 1977 movie of the musical, which is now frequently included in stage productions of the show. One of the Man's best numbers, soaked in sadness and irony.

Here's Ms. McDonald doing the song brilliantly on a different occasion:

Mind you, if you really want to see the greatest imaginable performance of Sondheim's most famous song (from the same musical) by the world's finest and most beautiful actress -- oh, indulge the hyperbole, the guy's eighty*, it's a special occasion -- watch the next clip. The tail end of the preceding interview with that nice Alan Titchmarsh is worth it to provide context.

Stephen Sondheim. Words and music. Makes you wonder why anybody else bothers.

*Sondheim, not me.


  1. I just finished watching my DVD of the Birthday Concert and I don't know how anyone could possibly pick a favorite performance! As a block, I do love the "red dress section" (when you watch, you'll know what I mean). Each song is so delicious and I felt like every song was a mini-master class. One correction to your post - that was Patti LuPone singing "Ladies Who Lunch" and not Elaine Page.

  2. Thank you for the correction. Yes, I knew it was Patti LuPone, it was just one of those times when the brain shut off and the wrong diva's name slid down the fingers and onto the keyboard. I'll update the post.

  3. Loved that broadcast too and my sports-loving father-in-law even watched some of it with me. I kept filling him in on trivia and such. He said he figured it was like my World Series! Oh, and, not to brag or anything, but I sat in the front row for a performance of that Judi Dench "Night Music."FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!