As collaborator on his last three original Broadway musicals, James Lapine has been granted the rare opportunity to get to know one of the greatest musical theater writers of our time, Stephen Sondheim. Now, with the new HBO documentary he directed and co-produced,Six by Sondheim, Lapine is giving Broadway fans an inside look at his friend Steve. Expanding on intimate interviews he first conducted for the 2010 Broadway revue Sondheim on Sondheim, the acclaimed film centers on the backstory of six great Sondheim songs and features original performances by stage faves including Audra McDonald, Will Swenson, Jeremy Jordan, Laura Osnes, Darren Criss and, believe it or not, the great Sondheim himself.
Youve known Sondheim for years as a friend and collaborator. You also dug up amazing archival interviews for Six by Sondheim. Any favorite old Sondheim hairdos? Youve included some newly-filmed music videos of Sondheim songs, including Opening Doors with Darren Criss, Jeremy Jordan, America Ferrara and Laura Osnes and Audra McDonald singing Send in the Clowns." The initial idea was to get six different directors to do six songs. But it was fun to get some younger people in the movie who were the right age and had the vocal chops to do it. In an unexpected twist, Sondheim himself acts and sings in the movie as Joe, the skeptical theater producer in Opening Doors. It was a tough little shootthat entire song was shot on green screen on a turntable that never stopped turning. I think its great that it kind of screeches to a halt when he comes on screen. I can't wait for the Into the Woods movie. I did write [the screenplay], so I did work from here closely with [director] Rob Marshall. Its so many years later, so theres a little level of detachment from it, which is a good thing because obviously to make a movie, you have to compromise some of the things from the original. Ive heard her sing in movies, but everyone is really surprised by the range and depth of her voice. Any chance Sunday in the Park with George could work as a film? Yeah, we had an offer way back when it opened on Broadway and I had it all plotted out but Steve didnt want to make a movie. On the top of dream movie musicals, here's one non-Sondheim question: How about a film of William Finn'sFalsettos? Its interesting how a lot of AIDS projects are coming back now in film and TV. It might be a good time for it. What will probably happen is that well do a theatrical revival and that will lead to a movie. Any more adventures with Mr Sondheim coming up in the future? [Laughs.] How mature is that??
Six by Sondheim premieres on Monday, December 9 at 9PM on HBO.