Local Tributes to Stephen Sondheim



Stephen Sondheim c. 1976 (public domain image via Wikipedia)

Stephen Sondheim’s death at 91 in November 2021 came at a time when his popularity was arguably at its peak. His incomparable contributions to musicals span six decades and his shows are ubiquitous. Most recently, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, featuring Sondheim’s first Broadway show lyrics, hit the big screen. A role-reversal version of his groundbreaking Company just opened on Broadway.

And locally, three theaters had Sondheim shows in the works. Now they are just about to open.

We asked representatives of each theater mounting a Sondheim show to tell us about it, as well as how the show was selected and their thoughts on Sondheim.


A Little Night Music


Click to see full size image.

Greenway Court Theatre on the campus of Fairfax High School
Friday, Feb. 4-Sunday, March 13.

Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 7:00pm


From an interview with the show’s director Ryan O’Connor:

What sparked the decision to put on this show?

We wanted to do a show that hadn’t been done in Los Angeles in a long time. The last Los Angeles production of A Little Night Music was in 2004. It’s a big show and a tough show, so it’s rarely done intimately. It just seemed like a great challenge and opportunity.

Was this production planned prior to Sondheim’s death? If so, did his death affect any choices for the production?

We were originally scheduled to open in the Spring of 2020, but obviously the world had other plans. We were already cast and in pre-production when Sondheim died. Our first rehearsal was just three days after his death. To be able to immerse ourselves in one of his most iconic scores at this time is beyond a dream come true and, hopefully, a tribute to him.

What is the theater’s history with Sondheim? Do the cast and others involved have any Sondheim history/experience?

Zoe Howard, who plays Madame Armfeldt, has a very funny story about auditioning for Sondheim when she was living and working in The West End. Her story echoes many, which is that he was very kind but very meticulous. She did a get a callback.

What’s special about this show?

A Little Night Music is a true gem of a show that is much funnier and lighter than people usually think, mostly because its most famous songs (“Send In The Clowns” and “Every Day A Little Death”) are iconically weepy songs, but the show is actually a farce and very hilariously tackles the topics of class and gender through the unifying actions of lust and romance. Our version takes this concept a step further by casting the show with less gender constructs than are expected. We have a wide variety of trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming people in our cast and on our creative team, and that added element of challenging gender norms in our ensemble has added a very special spin on this classic show.

What’s your favorite moment in A Little Night Music?

Well, the cast might disagree because it’s probably their most challenging backstage moment that includes a truly quick costume change, but the last minute of the last number in Act One, “A Weekend In The Country,” is probably my single favorite thing I’ve ever had the honor of staging, and watching it come alive each night is absolute theatre magic.

Tickets are $45-60 and are available here.


Marry Me a Little


Nick Tubbs and Katy Tang in Marry Me a Little. Photo by John Freeland, Jr.


International City Theatre (ICT), 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach
February 11-27
Wed. preview on Feb. 9, and Thursdays through Saturdays at 2:00PM.
Post-show talkback with the cast on Sunday, Feb. 20.


This collection of Sondheim songs that “got away” is the shared story of two lonely strangers, told entirely through songs written early in Sondheim’s career or cut from his groundbreaking Broadway musicals.

From an interview with ICT artistic director and producer caryn desai [sic]:

What sparked the decision to put on this show?  

Not knowing where we might be with COVID, I was looking for a small musical to open our 37th season.  Marry Me A Little captures the longing and hurt caused by isolation and loneliness and the need for connection. It seemed fitting for the world in which we were when I booked it, and it still rings true.

Was it planned prior to Sondheim’s death?

Yes, it was — but how fortunate we are to pay tribute in a timely manner to this extraordinary artist.  Stephen Sondheim was a giant in the realm of musical theatre, not only for his music but for his storytelling ability.  He had an extraordinary talent in putting words together that had us question and examine our own lives and our own thoughts.  He changed, deepened and expanded the world of musical theatre.

What is the theater’s history with Sondheim?

ICT produced two Sondheim pieces in the past:  Putting It Together in 2002 and Sondheim on Sondheim in 2015.  The remarkable and special thing about Sondheim on Sondheim is that Stephen Sondheim is present through video recordings in the telling of his story and his music.

Do the cast and others involved have any Sondheim history/experience?  

Katy Tang appeared in Sweeney Todd at South Coast Repertory.

What’s special about this show?  

This show feels very appropriate for the times we are living through.  We are not only reminded of the social nature of humans and the isolation we have endured due to the pandemic, but also of the isolation and loneliness we all experience at one time or another regardless of a pandemic.

What’s your favorite moment in Marry Me a Little?

I’m not sure I have a favorite moment, but I like that it ends with acceptance and hope because I think we must cling to hope in order to heal and move forward.  It’s a worthwhile message shared through the wonderful music and talent of Stephen Sondheim and by ICT’s extraordinary artists.

Tickets are $37 (previews)-$55 (opening night) and are available here.




East West Player’s Assassins. Photo by Steven Lam.


East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theatre, 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Little Tokyo
Sunday, Feb. 20 – Sunday, March 20
Days vary; check website for specifics


Assassins, a darkly comic Tony winner examines the motives of the nine notorious Americans who took their shot at the President of the United States. It exposes the dangers of our national fixation on celebrity and its violent intersection with the American dream.

From an interview with director and East West Players’ producing artistic director Snehal Desai:

What sparked the decision to put on this show?

This production of Assassins was initially planned for March of 2020. It felt like the right choice of show to be doing in the midst of what was a contentious and heated election. I hoped it would allow us to have some historical perspective on our current times. The show also is very funny. It’s a dark humor but one of the constants between when we first mounted the production and now is that the we desperately are in the need for as much laughter and connection as possible. It feels like we have been holding our collective breath for the last two years and as weird as it may sound I hope this show and production if nothing else will hopefully help us exhale. (Still masked but exhale nonetheless.)

East West Players has a history of producing Sondheim shows. Can you give us some details?

East West Players has a long history and legacy with Sondheim and his work. Many of our founding members including EWP’s first Artistic Director Mako and Gedde Watanabe who is in this production as Charles Guiteau. Gedde was just 19 when he made his Broadway debut in Pacific Overtures. Since then he has been in quite a few other Sondheim productions.

This will be the ninth Sondheim musical that EWP will produce and our 12th Sondheim production. Everyone was so very devastated to hear about Sondheim’s passing and this production in many ways has become our tribute to him and his support of EWP and the API community.

What’s special about this show?

I believe what is unique about our production is the diversity in our casting with all of the Assassins being BIPOC artists.  What I loved about Hamilton was the way it embraced this idea that we are a diverse nation and American history is our collective history.  We often lift up the positive parts of American history onstage and in TV and film, this allows us to revisit some of the darkest chapters in American history and really investigate how we got to these points in our history where these individuals felt like violence was the only recourse they had.

What’s your favorite number in the show?

My favorite number in the show is “Another National Anthem.” For this production we have two choreographers, Preston Mui and Jasmine Raphael, who do a beautiful, muscular job with the movement. In the middle of the song the full company is on stage singing, “We’re the other national anthem, folks. The ones who can’t get into the ballpark.” It never fails to give me goosebumps thinking of what that means for our cast and community to say and hear these words today.

Tickets to Assassins are $50-75 and are available here.


And More…


All of these live, in-person shows will move you—and get you moving out of the house. Then, when you get home again, you can extend the Sondheim celebration with a viewing of his stupendous 90th birthday tribute, presented by a who’s who of Broadway stars, all of whom have deep ties to the master.



And finally, when Sondheim died, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sara Bareilles and others gathered in Times Square to honor him. Here’s a six-minute clip:



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About Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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