Sweeney Todd and Merrily We Roll Along
Continuing our series in which Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim talks to Donald Macleod. This third programme focuses on just two musicals: Sweeney Todd, widely regarded as Sondheim's masterpiece, an extraordinarily powerful work which he has modestly described as "a small and scary evening about the need for revenge"; and Merrily We Roll Along, a tale of disintegrating friendships and compromised idealism, narrated, in a characteristic structural twist, backwards. Sweeney Todd was a huge success and is widely performed today, from schools (in a special educational edition) to opera houses; despite a marvellous score, Merrily We Roll Along failed to catch the public mood and remains Sondheim's biggest flop to date. Among other topics, Sondheim also discusses his long-time collaboration with director Hal Prince, the logistics of working with an orchestrator, and the heart attack he suffered in 1979, just three weeks after the opening of Sweeney.
By Chris Barstow.