Sunday in the Trenches with George

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Often starting by looking for places to put songs into the author’s text, Sondheim finds one in the first pages of Lapine when Dot poses for Seurat on a hot Sunday. Lapine expands the moment into a monologue that begins with the words, “First a drop of sweat,” but Sondheim thinks: “Dribble—I can’t dribble.” Changes it to “drop”. a good startBut Lapine waits so long to hear the result, or any result, that he begins to fear that Sondheim will leave him “on the altar.” The delay is partly a result of Sondheim’s main concern: “I didn’t think the show needed songs.”

At the first reading of the first act, Sondheim plays the entire note so far, consisting of four arpeggios – about 10 seconds of music.

The Off Broadway workshop at Playwrights Horizons was mostly funded by grants and “wealthy widows,” says André Bishop, the theatre’s artistic director. But at least one isn’t on board. Dorothy Rodgers, widow of Richard Rodgers and an eminence grise in the New York State art funds argues that Sondheim does not deserve public funding as a “commercial” composer. Bishop remembers writing to him, “If you think this musical about a pointillismist painter, only half written, is commercial, you must be insane!” “I think what you should do is kneel and kiss my feet,” she adds, rather than cut back on funding. Rodgers replies: “Dear André. Points taken.”

Lapine receives a letter Edward KlebanThe songwriter of “A Chorus Line” adopts elements of Kleban’s non-production musical “Gallery” while “Sunday” has not yet been performed. The implied threat of a lawsuit goes all the way to Broadway as Kleban saw the smear notes during previews, but a lawsuit never materialized.

On the first day of rehearsal, Peters gets an urgent call: “Your father is sick.” But only his follower. Other problems are not so easily dismissed. One of the actors leaves a week later, and the few remaining resist what Lapine calls “second-rate” theatrical plays and directing style. Spiner, who is a driver, said, “I don’t have a character. Where is my character?” “You’re not a character, you’re a color,” replied Lapine, when Spiner replied, “Can you tell me what color?” he replies.

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