Roundup: Stephen Sondheim, Artists Collective, Sconset Square …

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Among the many tributes to legendary composer Stephen Sondheim, this one caught Veri Krassner’s eye.

Joshua Henry — the Tony-nominated actor whose credits include “Hamilton,” “Scottsboro Boys” and the current film “Tick, Tick….Boom!” — posted a photograph of Sondheim and the cast of “Being Alive” at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2007.

He noted how memorable the show was — especially because Sondheim himself was there to see it.

Henry was just beginning his career then. But he remembered Sondheim — and Westport.

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Speaking of Sondheim and the Playhouse: The legendary theater released a statement honoring the Broadway icon. The WCP says:

“During the summer of 1950, Stephen Sondheim was an apprentice at Westport Country Playhouse. He worked in a variety of capacities on 14 shows and appeared in a production of “The Life of the Party,” written by the Playhouse’s founder Lawrence Langner. Many of Sondheim’s fellow apprentices that year continued as theater professionals, including composer Mary Rodgers, film director Frank Perry, theatrical agent Peggy Hadley, and Actors’ Equity officer Conard Fowkes.

“Fifteen years after his apprenticeship, Sondheim’s own work appeared on the Playhouse stage with a production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ (1965). ‘A Little Night Music’ (1975) and ‘Side by Side by Sondheim’ (1978) followed in the next decade.  Most recently, ‘Into the Woods’ (2012) was directed by Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director.

“’Being Alive!,’ a world premiere conceived and directed by Billy Porter, took the Playhouse stage in 2007, with music and lyrics by Sondheim, who also provided collaborative assistance. The retrospective of Sondheim songs featured Chuck Cooper, Joshua Henry, and Leslie Odom, Jr., among others.

In 2006, the Playhouse honored its illustrious apprentice with a gala tribute performance, “The Ladies Who Sing Sondheim,” with Laura Benanti, Kristin Chenoweth, Barbara Cook, and Patti LuPone, directed by John Doyle.

Lamos said: “The entire Westport Country Playhouse family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Stephen Sondheim. I got to know Stephen a bit over the years, mostly socially. He eagerly granted my request to appear in a tribute to Mary Rodgers, who he’d gotten to know while they were both apprentices here. She was our guest of honor when we saluted her father Richard Rodgers at Westport Country Playhouse’s annual gala in 2009.

“Yet when I was directing ‘A Little Night Music’ for Baltimore Center Stage and tried staging a short musical sequence that made no sense to me, I emailed him to ask about it. In minutes, he answered right back. ‘Oh you can cut that. It was something Pat (Birch, the original Broadway choreographer) and Hal (Prince, the legendary director) cooked up, but it’s not needed at all.’

“And just a year ago he graciously agreed to participate in the shooting of a short-form documentary by filmmaker Doug Tirola that celebrates the history of Westport Country Playhouse. In the video clip he wished the Playhouse a happy 90th birthday, then jokingly wished himself the same, since ‘we’re the same age.’ That’s a memory that I find particularly poignant today.”

Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo), during his 1950 apprenticeship. The photo was taken at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Also in the photo: future film director Frank Perry (front row, left) and Richard Rodgers’ daughter Mary (2nd row, 4th from left).

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The Artists’ Collective of Westport celebrates the season with a “small works holiday show,” at their Westport Country Playhouse gallery.

An opening reception is set for December 8 (6 to 8 p.m.), with an open house from Thursday to Sunday (December 9-12, 2 to 6 p.m.).

As usual, the works are eclectic, intriguing, inspiring — and fun.

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Sconset Square merchants hosts a holiday stroll this Thursday (December 2, 5:30 to 8 p.m.).

Singers from Staples High School and Greens Farm Academy will entertain. There are events at 5 stores, plus Christopher’s French Crepe Food truck.

At Bungalow, for example, Suzie Kondi showcases her cashmeres and Westport’s Ronit Tarshis her jewels. Christopher LaGuardia of LaGuardia Design Group in the Hamptons will sign books.

Bungalow is part of Sconset Square’s Holiday Stroll.

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Plumed Serpent — the popular bridal and formal gown store in Colonial Green — was damaged in an October fire. It was contained in the front of the store, and no one was hurt.

All merchandise is gone. The store is bare. A sign says “Closed.”

However — thankfully — it’s only temporary. They’re still hosting appointments for current brides, for fittings and pick-ups.

They’re not sure when. But, they assure anxious brides and brides-to-be: They will reopen.

(Photo and hat tip/Molly Alger)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo features a red-tailed hawk, guarding its prey.

(Photo/Shira Honigstein)

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And finally … on this day in 1777, the first civilian settlement (“pueblo”) in Alta California was founded. Today we know it as San Jose.

3 responses to “Roundup: Stephen Sondheim, Artists Collective, Sconset Square …

  1. It never ceases to amaze me what famous people passed through Westport, many connected to the Westport Country Playhouse. I wonder where Stephen Sondheim stayed in town. Did he eat at any restaurants? Did he drink at any of the bars in town? Did he date anyone? I think Peter Falk was in town four or five years after that, when he was an unknown.

  2. Patricia Blaufuss

    Jack – Stephen Sondheim himself answers some of your questions about his Westport Country Playhouse apprenticeship in an interview with Jesse Green in The New York Times prior to a 2006 Playhouse gala in the composer’s honor.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/24/theater/24gree.html

  3. Patricia, Thanks for the info. Westport was basically a small town sprinkled with family farms in 1950, and everyone knew each other in town.

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