Jason Robert Brown on How (Not) to Insult Sondheim

PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
A very valuable lesson some of us have learned the hard way.
Jason Robert Brown: HOW I INSULTED SONDHEIM (AND THE WISDOM RECEIVED THEREBY)
yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
Playbilly
Broadway Legend
joined:3/30/12
Relaying this story seems far more insulting than what was done by being (heaven forbid!) honest those many years ago. If all Sondheim wants, or believes all artists need, is a sycophant -- then that's quite sad.
"Through The Sacrifice You Made, We Can't Believe The Price You Paid..For Love!"
After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
In other words, bow and scrape 100% of the time.
CATSNYrevival
Broadway Legend
joined:3/1/04
So, was the show Passion?
That's right! Underscore mother-fu@#ers!
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
I'm guessing.

...What an... odd anecdote to share. I get where he's coming from, I suppose, in regards to how to respond to someone's work (...be polite). But it makes Sondheim sound emotionally fragile and makes Brown look like a name-dropper.
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
So what show did Sondheim debut in 1993? I think Passion was 1994- and I've heard Sondheim was not especially fond of negative feedback on that one in particular.

And in his defense- I can see where he's coming from. You invite a virtual stranger to dinner and a show (YOUR show) and unless you say "I'd REALLY like to know how you felt" or "I'd appreciate your notes" all anyone needs to hear is "I loved it."

I still recall a college production I was very involved in and a "special someone" I invited to come see it who damned me with (very) faint praise. That night didn't go well either. And I'm not Stephen Sondheim.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
I just can't work up any interest in anything a shamelessly self-promoting D-list talent like Brown has to say - about Sondheim, theatre, what to say to an artist, or even food.
broadwaybabe1234
Stand-by
joined:5/3/09
I think the story is a great lesson to us all. I think kindness the face of friends, even if it is unwarranted, is important.

Newintown- Brown wrote Parade and that is by no means D-List. I admit some of his shows have been misses but i think he is one of the best composers of the current time.
[believe]
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
I LOVED IT
ghostlight2
Broadway Legend
joined:12/5/04
I honestly don't get this. I would never lie like that, to anyone, friend or not. I do find things to praise, but unless specifically asked, I don't critique. If you ask me, however, you will get an honest but thoughtful (and tactful) answer. I'm a fairly tough audience.

PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
Exactly, broadwaybabe. In the end kindness, it all comes down to whether you choose to put a value on kindness or not.

The inability of some people in this thread to see that lesson here ultimately speaks more of them than it does of either of the Messrs. Brown or Sondheim.

Someone very wise once said that those who feel the need to be right all the time never seem to realize that, in doing so, they relentlessly make all others wrong. And that is done at great cost to the vitality of one's relationships.

Shorter version: Your opinions of other people are never as important as you think they are.
yr pal,
joey




Blocked so far: suestorm, Master Bates
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
Someone very wise once said that those who feel the need to be right all the time never seem to realize that, in doing so, they relentlessly make all others wrong

But, in this case, it seems like that should apply to Sondheim as much as Brown, particularly since he aimed both barrels back at Brown to tell him why he was so wrong.

And maybe it's more about the distinctions of giving your opinions to an acquaintances as opposed to a real friend, but I think the burden also has to fall somewhat on the person who solicited the opinion.
LYLS3637
Featured Actor
joined:5/1/09
The Tony-winning composer/lyricist of PARADE, SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, and THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a D-list talent?

Do I dare ask who, besides Sondheim I assume, is deserving of the A-list title? ALW? LOLZ
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
I wonder what the etiquette is for blogging this sort of story.
mikem
Broadway Legend
joined:8/5/04
I wonder what Sondheim thinks of this whole thing and what Sondheim actually said.

I would have a slightly different take on Brown's main faux pas, which is looking a gift horse in the mouth. Someone whom he has never met has gotten him tickets to a show and is taking him out to dinner. (Brown says the tickets were Sondheim's "treat" rather than saying that Sondheim got him tickets, implying that Sondheim actually paid for the tickets for a complete stranger, not that it matters all that much.) Sondheim is doing a nice thing for Brown. The polite thing to do is to say when you sit down to dinner, "Thank you so much for the tickets! That was so nice of you!" Because it WAS a nice thing for Sondheim to do, and it should be acknowledged. Add a little bit more genuine gushing about how nice it was and what an honor it is to meet Sondheim, and Sondheim probably wouldn't have cared that Brown hasn't actually said anything about the show itself.

If your favorite aunt gets you an ugly sweater, you tell your favorite aunt that you like the sweater. Not because you're necessarily all that crazy about the sweater itself, but because you love the giver and what the gesture stands for.

Brown got a gift that he didn't like, from a complete stranger who had good intentions. You don't make that complete stranger who has good intentions feel bad about something that can't be changed. Brown didn't mention a gift he just got to the gift giver, whom he saw right afterwards, for twenty minutes, until the gift giver had to ask about it. That was rude. Really rude. Brown adds in all this stuff about "great art" and makes it seem like the anecdote is about the creative process, but I wonder how much of that is Brown and how much is what Sondheim actually said or felt at that time. I'm not sure the incident is as much about an artist having a fragile ego about his creative output as Brown seems to think.
"What was the name of that cheese that I like?" "you can't run away forever...but there's nothing wrong with getting a good head start" "well I hope and I pray, that maybe someday, you'll walk in the room with my heart"
qolbinau
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/08
I doubt Sondheim actually paid for the tickets (they would have been comps). I agree with your post though.
ggersten
Broadway Legend
joined:5/11/06
Mikem, Yes.
In the what he should have said" "Thank you for getting me the tickets and the dinner. It's been an amazing evening. To be your guest at your show - and now dinner - is an honor and an unexpected treat. I will never forget this evening. Frank Rich was sitting behind us and I could have told him that the evening is "unforgettable"!" or something like that.

I don't think "I loved it" is the correct thing to say, especially as there is follow up: "What did you love the most?" And you are now caught.
You don't have to be critical - although I guess you could say "I didn't enjoy it as much as Sunday (Sweeney)" and if asked why, you can praise Sunday or Sweeney without saying anything about the current production. And it might give Sondhem the opportunity to talk about those shows and perhaps why this show is different.
Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
Yeah, mikem, that's how I feel about it, as well. Never one does Brown ever say that the first thing they said to Sondheim was "thank you"... which is, I'd imagine, the first thing anyone would do after being so generously treated.
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
Or, despite being so young and foolish at the barely post-natal age of 23 (and 28 or however old the secret former best friend was), it didn't occur to either of them between the theatre and sitting down with Sondheim at the restaurant that they might actually be asked what they thought?
kidbroadway2
Leading Actor
joined:3/26/10
23's not THAT young. Good story still. If people don't realize artists (and successful ones at that) are deeply emotional and insecure about their work then I'm very confused.
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10

JRB editorializes here so much, both by leaving out key information and extensively paraphrasing the "lesson," that I can't formulate an opinion about it. Even as a blog entry, it's very poorly written.
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EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Jason has told this story before--maybe 5 years back (yes, he made it clear that time it was Passion). He either changed his view on the matter, knows it's being told to a different audience, or something--but when he told it before it was much more damning of Sondheim and much more of a reaction of "Well the show SUCKED, we were right, Sondheim should have sucked it up". To be honest, when I heard it that time it just made me think all the more than JRB has a hysterical ego. And no, not because I far prefer Sondheim to JRB (I love Parade, for what it's worth)--or that I happen to love Passion (though when JRB saw it, from what he said before, it was during a very early preview) it was just something about the way he told it.

For the record, I do agree with the point here. AfterEight is someone who goes on and on about manners, so I find it odd (but not surprising) he doesn't see that--you're invited by someone who wrote the show--you could at least focus on a few things you did like.
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10

His need to make his revulsion for Sondheim apparent trumps any pretense he makes of having actual convictions.


CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
Updated On: 11/1/12 at 05:22 PM
jv92
Broadway Legend
joined:11/4/05
JRB is a douche. He made it to Broadway because he became good friends with Hal Prince's daughter, and he thought he was worth working with. He has been an egomaniac since the cradle. And I like PARADE.

A stranger, and one named Stephen Sondheim one at that, gives you tickets to his new show and dinner, and you act that way? Come on...

EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
Exactly. And the only reason he GOT Parade was because Prince approached Sondheim, and he wasn't interested...
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
There is also the fact that JRB was just trying to break through to a career at that point. He has the opportunity to see a show by a man whose work he says made him want to get into musicals, early in its creative stage, with the man himself. So instead, he tries to not say anything about the show? He didn't like it. But aren't there tons of creative questions he could have asked and learned from? Isn't that, like, the ideal opportunity--not to just shrug it off and thinkt o your friend "Well, he's old and I guess has lost it--let's order something expensive from the menu!"