The Master is 87 today. Only appropriate, then, to spend a moment with a masterpiece.
Sunday in the Park is back on people's minds, thanks to what is by all accounts a marvelous production in New York. Here we glimpse a production in Paris, with Julian Ovenden and Sophie-Louise Dann in the roles first limned by Mr. Patinkin and Miss Peters. From what we see here, they do their predecessors proud. This iteration lacks the coup de foudre that became the hallmark of that first production: the more or less literal recreation of the great painting from which the show's inspiration springs, with an image of the masterwork itself springing up on stage where here we return to, as we're told, the blank page or canvas. Nonetheless, it does full justice to the music, which after all these years can still make me weep. So many possibilities.
Of all the people I ran across in my years of Manhattan madness, Mr. Sondheim was one of the vanishing few of whom I remained in total, crippling awe. The four or five times we were in the same room, I was reduced to nothingness and faded quite willingly into the deepest background; I doubt we traded ten words (me who sparred quite happily with far fiercer-seeming folk than he; I was the one deputed, once, to give Miss Kathleen Battle a piece of bad news, I was, and survived, if barely). I missed out, I suppose, but perhaps it's best to keep some idols at arm's length or further.
He is a titan, and an old soul. Here, his music and words unite as few such are able to do - the Gertrude-Steinische procession of colors and the tumbling chords summoning the small suburban park and its ordinary - heartbreaking - inhabitants, order coming from chaos and extraordinary beauty from the simple tools of melody and word. Tension; composition; balance; light - harmony. How Stephen looks; he can look forever. So careful, so exact. Forever.