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Sondheim recordings - which two to choose?

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Could someone tell me what their favorite dvds of Sondheim's musicals are? I would like to buy two dvds to introduce a tertiary music student to Sondheim. After spending some time on Amazon it seemed to me the best choices would be:

Sweeney Todd (1982) with Angela Lansbury, George Hearn

Sunday in the Park with George (1986) with Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters

I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.

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Hello, innopac. Sondheim is well represented on recordings and so you have a lot to choose from. I own many of the original cast albums and they are all worth having. There are a number of other versions out there, but I'm not such a great fan that I felt the need to seek them out for comparison, so perhaps there's someone else who can weigh in on those. (For "Follies" I would recommend the 1985 'Follies in Concert' with Lee Remick, Carol Burnett, Barbara Cook, et al. before the original cast album, although the latter has some fine stuff.)

My own two choices for your student would be the Follies in Concert and the original cast album of "A Little Night Music." Those are my own two favorites although some would dismiss regard them as too obvious choices. I don't care. The Follies recording has several characteristic Sondheim originals and also demonstrates his skill in pastiche -- almost every type of show tune is here for your pupil to sample. And I love Could I Leave You? and Too Many Mornings. Wonderful songs.

"A Little Night Music" - it's a lovely score, very clever, and it's not like eating your spinach. And there's Glynis Johns.

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I agree about Follies in Concert. I like early Sondheim, and the original cast recording of Company with Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch, etc., is excellent. One nice thing about Amazon is that you can listen to songs for many of the cds on sale.

If you decided to go the route of an anthology of Sondheim songs, I like (for early songs), Side by Side by Sondheim. A huge and inevitably uneven encyclopedia of Sondeim songs (about 2 hours) is Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall featuring just about every Broadway performer able to mount a stage circa 1992.

The long recent thread on musical scores -- http://ballettalk.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=24865 -- includes a discussion of Sondheim musicals if you scroll down a bit.

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(For "Follies" I would recommend the 1985 'Follies in Concert' with Lee Remick, Carol Burnett, Barbara Cook, et al. before the original cast album, although the latter has some fine stuff.)

Definitely disagree on this one, because it is the bringing back of almost-forgotten stars who come to full bloom in Sondheim's show's original cast--Alexis Smith, Dorothy Collins, Yvonne deCarlo, Ethel Shutta--which brings the aura to 'Follies'. Also, even with Barbara Cook's singing, there's no voice as full and rich with passion in 'Two Many Mornings' as that of Dorothy Collins, beautifully partnered by John McMartin. And it goes even deeper now--because all of these old stars have permanently disappeared by now, from a story that was already about ghosts.

Agree with Bart about the wonderful original cast album of 'Company', especially for Pamela Myers's 'Another Hundred People', Elaine Stritch and the guys in 'Have I Got a Girl for You..'.

DVD of concert performance of 'Sweeney Todd' is good with Patti Lupone, although I don't like this show basically. I prefer 'Passion', for which there is a good DVD, but I don't care for either that or 'A Little Night Music' all that much, the chic European things don't quite come across for me. Maybe you should do one American one like 'Company' and one European-themed one, any of the above. Both 'Sweeney Todd' and 'Sunday in the Park with George' is not broad enough, I would think, if you only have two. Better to use one of those and even 'Gypsy' or 'West Side Story' where you can hear his lyricist's brilliance although not his music (although I think those two composers, Styne and Bernstein, are much greater composers), or you may be a little too close in one single period of Sondheim with just those two you named.

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For DVDs, I would go with the two choices in your original post, innopac. I think "Sweeney Todd" and "Sunday..." are two of Sondheim's most interesting works, and the DVDs give a decent approximation of how Sondheim and the directors (Prince and Lapine, respectively) originally meant for them to be appreciated.

Neither are perfect, especially the "Sweeney Todd" recording, which has the look of a cheap bus-and-truck tour at times and Joslyn as Johanna has a distinct tendency to shrill. But the opportunity to see even the scale-down of the original set and staging more than make up for it, in my opinion. not to mention Angela Lansbury's monumental performance as a mad chihuahua.

My third and fourth choices would probably be "Into the Woods" and "Passion," which are more recent and less "primitive" recordings, both with the original casts.

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I loved Len Cariou as Sweeney. He characterization was so much more subtle than Hearns.

I saw the original twice on Bway and once at Kennedy Center but the revival was also genius and quite mesmerizing.

I could swear I was levitated the entire evening.

A Little Night Music is special. I do love the NYC Opera production. Follies (saw it in London and the recent Bway revival), Company (original national tour and recent Bway revivial), Sunday in the Park with George (original Bway and Ravivina) are equally wonderful and I adore Pacific Overtures. I saw an incredible production of Pacific Overtures at the Promenade in the 80s. But the Chicago Shakespeare was good and I adored the recent Roundabout production starring B.D. Wong. Unfortunately I don't know Passion and I didn't like BOUNCE at the Goodman. Recent Bway Assassins was pretty darn amazing too!

Original Sweeney and A Little Night Music might be the best for just listening though the Follies Concert is fun.

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