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date: 06 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the unique status as contemporary American classics that Sondheim’s musicals have achieved in the United Kingdom since the British revue of his work Side by Side by Sondheim opened in London in 1977 before transferring to Broadway. The chapter not only suggests that Sondheim’s love of language, wit, and irony makes his work peculiarly attractive to British audiences, but also explains how the system of theatrical subsidy allows theaters to produce so many revivals and premiere productions, free of the commercial pressures that necessarily predominate on Broadway. Consideration of the innovatory actor-musician production by John Doyle of Sweeney Todd and the Menier Chocolate Factory’s revivals of Sunday in the Park with George and A Little Night Music—all three of which transferred successfully to Broadway—prompts reflections on the particular ways in which British directors have reconceived these extraordinary works, which have offered the thrill of witnessing great British performers such as Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton, Daniel Evans, Maria Friedman, Judi Dench, Hannah Waddingham, Michael Ball, and David Thaxton emerge as major interpreters of Sondheim.

Keywords: Side by Side by Sondheim, Sunday in the Park with George, American classics, subsidized theatre, British theater, John Doyle, actor-musicians, Menier Chocolate Factory, Donmar Theatre, National Theatre

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