Sondheim tribute at Chiswick Playhouse

Image above: Posters from some of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals

Isn’t He Something – 3-4 February

On Friday 3 and Saturday 4 February Chiswick Playhouse stages a tribute to Stephen Sondheim, the American composer and lyricist who died in November.

Four singers will perform songs from his musicals, which included Follies, A Little Night Music Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, to Leonard Bernstein’s music.

Sondheim is credited with having “reinvented the American musical”, choosing themes which tackled “unexpected themes that range far beyond the [genre’s] traditional subjects” and composing music and lyrics “of unprecedented complexity and sophistication”.

Images above: Stephen Sondheim with Leonard Bernstein in 1978; photograph Weissberger; Stephen Sondheim as an older man – picture Sky News

An interview with Charlie-Jane Jones

I spoke to Charlie-Jane Jones, who is producing Isn’t he Something in association with the Playhouse and is performing in the show.

Q: Why put on Isn’t He Something?

A: This is a show I’ve been working on for quite a while. I started on it in spring 2021, six months before he died. I just love his music. It bridges musical theatre, opera and plays. It’s such intelligent work.

Q: What’s in the show?

A: There’s a huge selection in the show, something from all 16 of his musicals. There are four of us performing: Beth Clarence, Ifan Jones, Tom Elliot Reade and myself. We all trained at the Royal Academy of Music.

Q: Pick two songs and tell me why you’ve chosen them.

A: One of the most beautiful duets he wrote is Move On from Sunday in the Park with George. Dot and George are characters from the early 1900s and we see them at various points in their lives. The duet comes towards the end of the show and she sings to him:

“Anything to you do, let it come from you,
Then it will be new, give us more to see”

It just captures the whole sentiment of when you feel that what you do isn’t good enough and it’s a reminder that if you’re true to yourself it’s ok.

The other song I’d choose would be Isn’t He Something from Road Show, his final major work which he wrote in 2008. It’s not the most well known of his songs. It refers to a lady talking about her son, but it gives us the title of our show.

Q: What has been your involvement with his work?

A: I worked on two of his shows while I was in training – two roles that were challenging and interesting. I played Dot, the lead character in Sunday in the Park with George and I played Lynette Squeaky Fromme, one of the assassins in Assassins, which was about the actual or attempted assassinations of American presidents.

Image above: Beth Clarence, Ifan Jones, Tom Elliot Reade and Charlie-Jade Jones; Tom and Charlie-Jade in Sunday in the Park with George


Beth Clarence

Training: The Royal Academy of Music

Theatre Includes: Thursford Christmas Spectacular (Thursford Collection), Lucky Stiff (Union Theatre) Lead Vocalist for The Queen Victoria (Cunard).

Charlie-Jade Jones

Training: The Royal Academy of Music

Theatre Includes: Love Story (Cadogan Hall), Parade (Frogmore Paper Mill), State Fair (Cadogan Hall), Thursford Christmas Spectacular (Thursford Collection), Anything Goes (Cadogan Hall).

Ifan Jones

Training: The Royal Academy of Music

Theatre Includes: Fiddler On The Roof (Frinton Summer Theatre), The Hired Man (Union Theatre), Bernstein’s Mass (Royal Festival Hall), Tom’s Midnight Garden (Birmingham Stage Company), Thursford Christmas Spectacular (Thursford Collection).

Tom Elliot Reade

Training: The Royal Academy of Music

Theatre Includes: The Choir of Man (European & Australia Tour), The Commitments (UK & International Tour), Lucky Stiff (Union Theatre), Judy! (Arts Theatre).

Isn’t He Something is on at Chiswick Playhouse Friday 3 and Saturday 4 February. Book tickets through the Chiswick Playhouse website.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Women of Pensionable Rage at Chiswick Playhouse

See also: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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