Broadway’s Company, Off-Broadway’s Assassins Honor the Late Stephen Sondheim | Playbill

Obituaries Broadway’s Company, Off-Broadway’s Assassins Honor the Late Stephen Sondheim The two productions performed hours after news broke of the legendary composer’s death.
Stephen Sondheim Erika Kapin Photography

When Stephen Sondheim died November 26 at the age of 91, the legendary composer had two major productions of his work running in New York City: a Broadway revival of Company and an Off-Broadway staging of Assassins at Classic Stage Company. Both had evening performances hours after news of his passing broke.

Company, currently in preview performances at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, paid tribute with a pre-show speech by director Marianne Elliott, the full cast standing behind her. "He was truly the greatest artist that we in our lifetime, possibly will ever know in this art form," she said, prompting a standing ovation. Elliott, whose production changes the gender of several characters including the central Bobby (now Bobbie), recalled how collaborative Sondheim was during the developmental process: "He really understood about art, and he really understood about the now and why art should speak to the now. It’s not a museum piece. It’s about speaking to its audience."

Following Elliott's remarks, Patti LuPone (a frequent Sondheim interpreter, now playing Joanne) spoke for the company: "All of us on this stage—cast, musicians, crew—dedicate tonight, and going forward our entire run, to Stephen Sondheim."

The revival first had a Friday matinee performance November 26 (not uncommon for a holiday week). Cast member Claybourne Elder shared that he and his co-stars were called to the stage post-show while still in costume, and that Elliott then informed them that Sondheim had passed, adding, according to Elder, that “it had been easy and that his loved ones were with him.”

The new take on Sondheim’s 1970 musical stars Tony winner Katrina Lenk in the role of Bobbie. Opening night is set for December 9, following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the revival initially intended to open March 22, 2020—the composer’s 90th birthday.

Director John Doyle’s staging of Assassins, which draws lines between historical tragedies and the current political landscape, opened at Classic Stage Company November 14. Prior to the November 26 performance, Doyle addressed the audience, noting that the late composer would want theatregoers to fully take in the work about to be presented to them. "He would be curious if you sat here sadly tonight. I would ask you to sit back, to luxuriate in his extraordinary words and music."

The production, featuring Steven Pasquale, Will Swenson, Judy Kuhn, Brandon Uranowitz, and more, is scheduled to play on extension through January 29, 2022.


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