The curtain has risen on the fall theater season, and there’s not one, but two Stephen Sondheim musicals on the boards—and they’re both playing right now. The Lyric Stage’s Company, directed by Spiro Veloudos, runs through Oct. 9, while the Huntington Theatre Company’s Sunday in the Park with George, directed by Peter DuBois, runs through Oct. 16 at the Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre. The two companies have made a long-term commitment to exploring the 86-year-old New Yorker’s work and will both take part in a Sondheim symposium at the Boston Center for Adult Education on Oct. 1. That’s not the only connection: It turns out that early in their careers, Veloudos and DuBois both performed the same role in a Sondheim play—Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. And both directors took the time to sound off on Sondheim to us.
On what makes a Sondheim musical special…
DuBois: Sondheim captures the human experience in a way that can speak to you in every moment of your life. His characters range from 8 to 88, so no matter where you are in your life, you can relate to an experience his characters are having. As you grow older and come back to his work, you will catch yourself reacting to various moments differently.
Veloudos: There is an intelligence about his work that I think you don’t find with any other writer of musical theater. And like Shakespeare, it doesn’t matter how many times you have seen it; it’s different. Sondheim is much the same. I have actually called him the Shakespeare of the Musical Stage.
On the scene in their show that best exemplifies Sondheim’s style…
DuBois: Sunday in the Park with George is something that’s always spoken to me creatively. There’s an incredible song at the end of the show called “Move On.” Every artist needs to hear that message at some point—that the only way forward may be leaving something behind—and moreover, every human being needs to hear that message at some point in their lives as well.
Veloudos: The scene [in Company] that I think has that sardonic humor that Sondheim is known for is the scene where Harry and Sarah are trying to one-up each other—Sarah is showing off her karate skills—and Joanne, as sort of a Greek chorus, comes out and sings, “It’s the little things you do together.” … Immediately following that comic song, then Sondheim has Harry sing “Sorry/Grateful” in response to the question “Are you ever sorry that you got married?” A very funny scene with a comic song, followed immediately with a song, not so much of regret—a big motif in Sondheim’s work—but one of reflection.
THE IMPROPER’S 2016 FALL ARTS PREVIEW: DANCE | VISUAL ARTS | MUSIC | COMEDY