Side by Side by Sondheim is a revue, and as such, has no plot. But, for a little history on how it came to be...
Original Cast Member David Kernan was playing Carl-Magnus in the Original London Production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music. He as contacted by Cleo Lane and her husband John Dankworth, who wanted Kernan to put together a revue of some kind as a benefit for a theatre they owned in Wavendon. Kernan contacted director Ned Sherrin and suggested that they do a revue of Sondheim material. When they wrote to Sondheim for permission, Kernan received a telegram back saying "By all means try, but I can't think of anything more boring except possibly the Book of Kells".
Fortunately, audiences did not agree, and their little benefit (with Millicent Martin, Julie McKenzie, Kernan, and Ned Sherrin as the narrator) went over very well. Cameron Mackintosh, just starting out as a producer, saw the show and agreed to move it to the Mermaid Theatre. Sondheim agreed to come over and work with the cast, and ended up essentially directing. The show ran there for eight weeks and then moved to the larger Wyndham Theatre, where it ran for three years.
Hal Prince agreed to produce a Broadway version, and persuaded Actors' Equity Association to allow the original British Cast to transfer with the show. After several months and Tony nominations for the show and all four actors, the British cast was phased out and replaced by Nancy Dussault, Larry Kert, Georgia Brown, and Hermione Gingold as the Narrator. (Gingold also sang "I Never Do Anything Twice" in that production). After a move up the street to the Morosco Theatre in 1978, the show was hosted by Burr Tilstrom and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie until it closed on March 19, 1978.
This show became very popular with regional companies, and is perhaps the single biggest reason for the spread of Sondheim's popularity beyond sophisticated NY and London Theatre circles. Since it was put together in 1975, the show only contains material up through Pacific Overtures, and is the only official Sondheim revue that uses music written by other composers with Sondheim lyrics. The continued success of the show inspired companies to continually ask for permission to "update" the show with new material. While Sondheim was resistant to such efforts, he did eventually agree to put together another compilation containing newer material - 1992's Putting it Together.
- June Abernathy
Opened May 4, 1976 at the Mermaid Theatre in London, England
Julie N. McKenzie
Assassins is about how society interprets the American Dream, marginalizes outsiders and rewrites and sanitizes its collective history. "Something Just Broke" is a major distraction and plays like an afterthought, shoe horned simply to appease. The song breaks the dramatic fluidity and obstructs the overall pacing and climactic arc which derails the very intent and momentum that makes this work so compelling...
- Mark Bakalor
Which is not to say that it is perfect...
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