Thursday, June 09, 2016

Producer Scott Rudin Talks Sondheim
on Fresh Air

Early this week, producer Scott Rudin answered questions for host Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. After Rudin described the genesis of his latest musical Shuffle Along and reminisced about apprenticeship with various Broadway producers beginning at age 15 (including his carrying Kermit Bloomgarden's prosthetic leg on the bus), Terry asked about Rudin's two - year public feud with Stephen Sondheim in the early 2000s. Were they still estranged?

"I was with him most of yesterday," Rudin replied, "and we were working on his next show."

In 2002, a lawsuit and counter-suit, had concerned the musical that eventually became Road Show.  Rudin had publicly expressed disappointment with the way it was shaping up.  He told Terry Gross that he hadn't recognized that Sondheim "was in his own process, frustrated that the show wasn't working...."   A couple years later they settled out of court.  Still later, delighted by Road Show in its final form, Rudin wrote to Sondheim, admitting that he had been wrong.  They "re-introduced themselves," and Sondheim consulted Rudin for the chapters on Road Show in his memoir Look, I Made a Hat.  [See my reflections Road Show.] 

It had been a painful episode.  "[Sondheim] was a huge reason that I got involved in theatre," Rudin said. "I saw Company 12 times and Follies 13 times."

He says Sondheim's new show, with book by David Ives, is based on Luis Bunuel's movies The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Exterminating Angel.  Rudin says the new show is "bracing ... shocking ... political ... really smart ... as good as anything he's done."  He hopes to see it at New York's Public Theatre in 2017.

At Terry Gross's invitation, Rudin chose a song by Sondheim to discuss, "Loving You" from Passion. Its addition during previews, he said, changed the audience's perception of the character Fosca:

Loving you
Is not a choice,
It's who I am.

"She had been introduced to the audience as a figure of scorn and derision.  This song was designed to turn the audience towards her.  She's fearsome ... but the song gives you insight into her character."

Loving you
Is why I do 
The things I do.
Loving you
Is not in my 
But loving you,
I have a goal 
For what's left of my life...

I will live,
And I would die
For you.

"This is what musicals do," Rudin said. "The moment is lifted up by being sung. "

[Photo: Donna Murphy as "Fosca" in the original cast of Passion, with Jere Shea as "Giorgio."]

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