NEW YORK — The next year could prove to be an unofficial Stephen Sondheim festival on Broadway.
“Bounce,” which begins previews in Washington this week, is still eyeing a Gotham berth. And the Roundabout Theater is producing both “Assassins” this spring and “Pacific Overtures” in the fall.
But the musicals have more than Sondheim in common: John Weidman supplied the books for all three, too.
Since this trio constitutes the entire Sondheim-Weidman oeuvre, the confluence of productions is astounding.
“I suppose it is coincidence,” says the book writer in question. “In the end, I’d be happier if they were spaced out.”
Which isn’t to say he is unhappy.
“Joe Mantello‘s production of ‘Assassins’ is the one I can’t wait to see in New York City,” Weidman adds.
Over the past five years, Music Theater Intl. has licensed at least 160 productions of the controversial tuner, which has never been revived in Gotham after its 1990 premiere at Playwrights Horizons.
Sondheim wrote a new song, “Something Just Broke,” for Sam Mendes’ 1992 London production, his first at the Donmar Warehouse. We’ll be hearing that in New York.
“There was a song Sam Mendes wanted, that he thought was missing. He didn’t know what it was,” Weidman recalls.
“Something Just Broke” jumps to different people reacting to presidential assassinations through the decades.
“It expresses feelings of grief, which was our motive for writing the show,” says Weidman, who has done minor tinkering on the book.
After the events of Sept. 11, Roundabout postponed its November 2001 production of “Assassins.”
Weidman says that by February 2002 the creatives felt the show could be staged, “and it would engage an audience, as knocked off balance as the country was.”
Theater availability pushed the Broadway premiere of “Assassins” back to March. There have also been money issues. Weidman and the Roundabout won’t talk about the angels, but sources name Barry Diller and Doug Cramer as a couple of them.
Not nearly as controversial as “Assassins,” “Pacific Overtures” rates far fewer productions these days. According to MTI, it has clocked in only 23 since 1998.
Amon Miyamoto, who directed the acclaimed Japanese production seen at the Lincoln Center Festival last year, will direct the Roundabout’s new production.
Like “Assassins,” Weidman’s book for “Overtures” is nonlinear, non-hero-centric.
“We just went with what we went with,” Weidman says of the collaboration. “We’ve never had a conversation, ‘Gee, this form or structure is unusual.’ We did what we felt was right, for better or worse.”
He and Sondheim are now in D.C. with “Bounce.” This summer’s Goodman Theater production didn’t win the show many fans. Weidman says that since then 15 minutes have been cut from the first act, several numbers have been shifted and the tone has been made “more serious.
“The hope is it will feel like a very, very different show,” says Weidman.
As for life beyond Sondheim, there is “Contact,” the movie. Laurence Mark is producing for Miramax, with Susan Stroman directing.
“I’m in the process of writing a third draft now,” reveals the book writer-turned-screenwriter. “The hope is the third draft is the one.”
WMA adds names
Jack Tantleff and Peter Franklin are adding clients at William Morris, giving a special emphasis to musical theater talent.
New additions to the agency’s client list are directors Matthew Bourne, Robert Longbottom and Jeremy Sams.
Bourne is choreographing and co-directing, with Richard Eyre, the upcoming stage version of “Mary Poppins.”
Sams’ staging of “Noises Off” has returned to the West End, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” for which he wrote the book, is also going strong.
Longbottom is working on a new project for Disney Theatricals.