BWW Interviews: Into the Woods with Sweeney Todd: Phil Geoffrey Bond Talks Halloween Concerts and His New Role at 54 Below
Beyond a common composer, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods are drastically different shows. But maybe they have more in common than one would believe at first glance. Phil Geoffrey Bond, who oversees the monthly Sondheim Unplugged concert at 54 Below, was inspired to combine songs from each show for a special Halloween concert, and found some surprising similarities between them. The result is Into Sweeney Todd's Woods, a one-night event at the year-old concert venue that will feature performers like Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd's original Sweeney), Sarah Rice (Sweeney Todd's original Johanna) and Pamela Winslow Kashani (Into the Woods' original Rapunzel).
Bond found a common theme of loss and sadness in both musicals--"but the tales are told in such a rich and humorous fashion via the brilliance of Sondheim and his collaborators that any evening celebrating the work of these two milestones in American Musical Theatre results in what can only be described as heaven," he said.
"About two months ago, I found myself walking around my property in Putnam County - I live in the semi-woods where things are gorgeous and at night, sometimes even a touch scary with wolves and coyotes and the like," Bond recalled in an email. Thinking about the previous evening's Sondheim Unplugged gathering and wondering what to do for a Halloween concert, the idea came to him like kismet. "I came inside and emailed some of our regular cast immediately to see if they would happen to be free and willing to come in on Halloween night - and viola! I really do have the most splendid company of Sondheimities," he added.
"But what is really delightful about this show and what sets it apart from Sondheim Unplugged is that 1) it's material only from these two shows and 2) we're adding violin and bass -- so this will really give it an extra-spooky feel," he continued. "I sat in on the band rehearsal on Monday... I think I'm in love with strings. And this cast --- fuggettabouddit."
As 54 Below celebrated its one-year anniversary, Bond became Director of Original Programming and Jennifer Ashley Tepper took over from him as Director of Programming. "I've known Jennifer for a long while now, and knew she would be a terrific part of 54 Below if we were lucky enough to snag her," Bond said. "We're all working together to create the most diverse, interesting and compelling programming for the venue. I'm concentrating on original programming"--which he says, includes series created specifically for the venue like Sondheim Unplugged and Into Sweeney Todd's Woods--"and Jennifer, in addition to her own fabulous projects (like Hit List!), is concentrating on the day-to-day booking."
The best part of the new position, Bond added, is having the opportunity to "play in the sandbox and sink my hands (and teeth) into all of the projects I get to create. I love being the catalyst for celebrating not only the performing artists themselves, but also the work of creatives--ranging from Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein to brilliant new writers."