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FLASH FRIDAY: A Spotlight On Stephen Sondheim's A BED AND A CHAIR, Jazzing Up City Center With Wynton Marsalis

Today we are spotlighting one of the most hotly anticipated theatrical happenings of 2013, the new musical event A BED AND A CHAIR: A NEW YORK LOVE AFFAIR, showcasing the spectacular songs of Stephen Sondheim in new arrangements by jazz great Wynton Marsalis, served up by some of Broadway's best - Bernadette Peters, Jeremy Jordan and Norm Lewis included.

The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened

Without a doubt, Stephen Sondheim more or less is modern adult musical theatre and he is unquestionably the Shakespeare of our age. His peerless oeuvre demands and has continually received near-constant evaluation and re-evaluation in New York over the last forty or so years, yet the new theatrical offering coming next month in the form of A BED AND A CHAIR: A NEW YORK LOVE AFFAIR is something else altogether. Based on an idea by Peter Gethers, Jack Viertel and John Doyle, directed by Doyle, choreographed by Parker Esse and featuring musical supervision by David Loud, A BED AND A CHAIR is comprised of more than two dozen Sondheim selections arranged, orchestrated and performed in a whole new way thanks to a provocative new repurposing of them by music legend Wynton Marsalis, who himself will feature in the series of shows alongside the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra for a limited run November 13-17 at City Center. Furthermore, the stars of the show itself are none other than incomparable Sondheim interpreter Bernadette Peters, as well as SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM star Norm Lewis, multi-talented Broadway heartthrob Jeremy Jordan and unique jazz singer Cyrille Aimee. So, what exactly can we expect from the tantalizing prospect of these disparate and divinely talented worlds converging now that A BED AND A CHAIR is ever so close to becoming a reality, live onstage before us? Well, have yourself a seat - or two - and find out!

The official description of A BED AND A CHAIR: A NEW YORK LOVE AFFAIR is as follows: "A BED AND A CHAIR: A New York Love Affair, presented by the combined forces of City Center's Encores! program and Jazz at Lincoln Center, celebrates love in New York and love of New York. Native Manhattanite Sondheim and adopted citizen Marsalis (originally from New Orleans) compared musical notes on their shared passion for our city in a program that features more than two dozen Sondheim compositions, each piece newly re-imagined by the unique musical sensibility of Marsalis and performed by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra."

Indeed, with a vast selection of musical theatre treasures as rich and eclectic as those in the canon of Sondheim - WEST SIDE STORY and GYPSY through to A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, COMPANY, FOLLIES, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and SWEENEY TODD, up to SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, INTO THE WOODS, ASSASSINS, PASSION, ROAD SHOW and beyond, the possibilities are virtually - and sonically - endless! And, to add to all of that, the show will also feature extensive choreography performed along to the tunes by dancers Meg Gillentine, Tyler Hanes, Grasan Kingsberry and Elizabeth Parkinson.

Perhaps Sarah Vaughan's iconic "Send In The Clowns" many midnights ago was only an appetizer to the heretofore largely unexamined greatness more than merely likely of being revealed through this risky and exceptionally intriguing musical experiment by Marsalis and company via Sondheim in jazz. Plus, with these in-demand performers on hand and such a short run scheduled, A BED AND A CHAIR is poised to become the hottest ticket in town.

Yet, the real question remains: is it Sondheim who loves New York City or does New York City adore Sondheim a little bit more? Either way, A BED AND A CHAIR certainly seems to be sitting pretty with this astounding collection of talent on hand to play it - and trumpet it - for our entertainment pleasure.

A BED AND A CHAIR: A NEW YORK LOVE AFFAIR will be presented at City Center on November 13 through November 17. More information is available at the official site here.

Four Black Dragons

So, now, let us set our sights on the four fantastic headliners who will be starring in A BED AND A CHAIR - that is: Bernadette Peters, Cyrille Aimee, Jeremy Jordan and Norm Lewis - and, maybe whet our palettes with some Sondheim in jazz while we are at it, too.

Beginning with one of the biggest and brassiest Sondheim show-stoppers of all, first up, here is Bernadette Peters with "Broadway Baby" from FOLLIES on THE TONIGHT SHOW with Johnny Carson.

Next, Bernadette Peters offers up the emotionally titanic "Not A Day Goes By" from MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, a musical which will be shown in movie theaters next week by Fathom, as a matter of fact.

Bernadette Peters sings the unforgettable "Send In The Clowns" from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC with the master himself at the piano in this spellbinding clip from a very special event.

The other leading lady of A BED AND A CHAIR is French chanteuse Cyrille Aimee, who performs Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" in this arresting preview of her idiosyncratic song stylings.

Also, partake in Aimee's alluring and jazzy "Old Devil Moon", originally from FINIAN'S RAINBOW.

Lastly, Cyrille Aimee offers up a funky take on "Summertime" from PORGY & BESS.

Of course, Sondheim's work has been sporadically done in jazz many times over the course of his career, perhaps most notably by the Terry Trotter Trio who recorded a series of albums presenting jazz sketches on his scores, ranging from SWEENEY TODD to A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, PASSION and more.

Kicking off the male portion of our clip collection today, Jeremy Jordan excels with an early Sondheim stunner, "Something's Coming", with music by Leonard Bernstein, from WEST SIDE STORY.

After that, get a further taste of Jeremy Jordan's Tony in WEST SIDE STORY - a role he played himself in the most recent Broadway revival - with an emotive live recording of "Maria".

Now, Sample Norm Lewis alongside Tom Wopat, Vanessa Williams and the cast of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM singing one of the master's newest gems, "The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" from ROAD SHOW.

After that, take in Norm Lewis's "Being Alive" sung live, as featured in SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, and, originally, COMPANY.

Lastly, check out Stephen Sondheim's last new self-penned song to appear on the Great White Way: aptly named "God" byway of the musical revue SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, directed by James Lapine.

As a special bonus, check out jazz legend Sarah Vaughan imbuing Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns" with her own unmistakable flavor and sensitive drama in this stunning vintage performance clip.

So, what element of A BED AND A CHAIR: A NEW YORK LOVE AFFAIR fills you with the most excitement? Is it the promise of the premise of Broadway's best songs performed by a fabulous assortment of performers such as this? Or, could it be the vast possibilities of musical fireworks attainable with a jazz legend like Wynton Marsalis adapting Sondheim's songs in a whole new way for 2013? Maybe something else entirely intrigues you? Indeed, with so very much to anticipate given these almost impossible-to-believe credentials, A BED AND A CHAIR is destined to be the hottest seat to get a ticket to grab in New York City this November.

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From This Author - Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)