Brucemorchestra shines on Sondheim

Melissa Errico brings her new concert collection to Cedar Rapids before taking it to Carnegie Hall.

So when Orchestra Iowa opens its centennial season Sept. 17 on the front lawn of the Brucemore mansion, those will be the first to hear its new celebration of Stephen Sondheim.

It’s a tribute to his friend, the last titan of American musical theater, who died on November 26, 2021, at the age of 91.

Their relationship began in 2002, when he chose her to sing the lead female role in the limited run of “Sunday in the Park with George” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. of Sondheim’s “Passion,” “Do I Hear the Waltz?” and a concert version of “Into the Woods.” He performed in Sondheim’s 90th anniversary concert and appeared in a Sondheim documentary that aired on PBS.

And he received rave reviews for his 2018 album, “Sondheim Sublime,” which the Wall Street Journal deemed “the best all-Sondheim album ever.”

If you go

What is: Brucemore Orchestra XV

Shown: Orchestra Iowa and Broadway star Melissa Errico in “Sincerely, Sondheim”

Where: Brucemore House, 2160 Linden Dr SE, Cedar Rapids, on the front lot facing SE Front Street.

By the time: Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022; doors open 5:30 pm, concert 7 pm; rainy day Sunday, Sept. 18; masks are recommended, not required

Plug in: $20 in advance, $25 at the door; $35 seating; (319) 366-8203 or artsiowa.com/tickets/concerts/brucemorchestra-xv/

Student tickets: $10 ages 18 and over; free age 17 and under with paying adult; at the Ticket Office, 119 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

Family STEAM Day: The free performances begin at 5:30 pm, with the Instrument Petting Zoo featuring real instruments and the odd Theremin making spooky sounds.

More: Bring blankets, chairs, picnics, drinks, flashlights; or buy food and drink from online vendors

Details: artsiowa.com/tickets/concerts/brucemorchestra-xv/

Image on the website: melissaerrico.com/home/ and on Instagram @melissa_errico_fairymom

Before speaking with The Gazette by phone from his home in New York City, he asked three questions via email, including this insight into the legendary composer’s life:

“Steve Sondheim is a good friend of mine and a mentor of sorts – I won’t pretend that we’re friends, but when I was doing my Sondheim novel, he sent me a hundred e-mails on every kind of question. , little-known songs (such as ‘Isn’t He Something’ from the ‘Roadshow’ show) don’t encourage me to sing his songs as they should. written – then willingly agree to be a ‘musical girl’ soon after, and go a little wild interpretively.

“He can be mean, and a little naughty – he doesn’t like my title ‘Sondheim Sublime’ and tells me so. … He went out strong, but when you come back strong, he can be kind. …

“I’ll always think of my first meeting with him as setting up our dance: I was supposed to play the opening act of ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ at the Kennedy Center… Naked in the shower, it’s nothing he wrote. I didn’t know enough then, thank God, to know that you shouldn’t ask for changes like that to Sondheim. But he took it in stride, liked the idea, and slowly changed the two songs to make them work better.

“A great man in his talent, and a good man in his kindness.”

Brucemore orchestra

Orchestra Iowa Maestro Timothy Hankewich had “something completely different in mind” for this year’s opening — until Sondheim’s death.

“Obviously, he was one of the great American musicians of the 20th century. And how to put that time in a symphonic song, because he’s gone, it’s kind of difficult,” said Hankewich.

“People love Sondheim, they respect Sondheim, and they respect him, but it can be difficult to put that in an orchestral time.

After the success of last year’s Brucemorchestra concert featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Hankewich hopes to expand on that concept this year, with a Broadway musical style, along with some Sondheim music. However, after Sondheim’s death, Errico’s representatives, recognizing his genius Sondheim, suggested that he perform this type of concert.

“When we got in touch with Melissa, who is leading the way in Sondheim’s winning musical, we quickly realized that she had resources that we could not have imagined, ” said Hankewich.

“For example, he had the ear of Sondheim, so he was able to avoid a lot of licensing (fees), which is usually the way of projects like this. it’s an army of organizers, including organizers who work with Barbra Streisand all the time.

“As a result, the project went from being a broad Broadway revue, to a tribute to Stephen Sondheim,” Hankewich said.

“Most of the music was written from a young age, and we’re trying this program, which means that other musicians have taken up this program – the Toronto Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and etc. And so within months, this project will be implemented in the country.

“It’s a great way to celebrate our 100th anniversary by starting a program that will be shown all over the country,” Hankewich said.

The program will cover scenes from Sondheim’s early days writing music for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” as well as his later works where he wrote music and lyrics for popular shows such as “Sweeney Todd,” “Sunday in the Park. with George,” “Company,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and “Into the Woods,” and songs popular songs “Anyone Can Whistle” and “Passion.”

“Of course, you can’t do a Sondheim project without ‘Send in the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music,’ ” adds Hankewich.

Journey

Now 52, ​​Errico has grown up with art in his heritage, jumping two generations to his Italian immigrant background, with his grandmother who sang opera and his stepmother who became a maid. Ziegfeld, to Errico’s father, a doctor and musician, and his. mother, a sculptor.

At age 12, Errico was cast in the children’s television series “The Great Space Coaster,” and after his first year at Yale University, he dropped out of college to tour as Cosette. in “Les Miserables.” He returned to Yale, where he majored in art history and philosophy.

At the beginning of his career, he worked in television and film in Los Angeles, before offering to sing in what is called “the world’s best cabaret,” Cafe Carlyle, brought him back to New York.

Even her husband, Patrick McEnroe, whom she married in 1998, shows that they have achieved success in Hollywood. But Errico was victorious, and they moved to the East. (McEnroe — younger brother of tennis legend John McEnroe — was a public speaker rather than a tennis pro. Loved the arts.)

In New York, Errico performed a cabaret show called “New Standards,” singing what he considered the second great American songbook — songs by pop icons like Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor.

She returned to the stage at home and abroad, achieving success with many roles, including “My Fair Lady,” “Anna Karenina” and “High Society,” and he was nominated for a Tony Award as best actor for his performance in Michel Legrand’s. “Amour.”

Inheritance

But it was Sondheim’s music that got him into the limelight, creating his “Sondheim Sublime” song.

“The wit, the narrative power, the complexity of the idea, the perfection of the character, the sense of metaphor,” he said. “Who composed a deep poem about the creative process and the loneliness of the artist about finishing the hat?

“If there’s one aspect of Steve’s work that draws me in the most … it’s his skill and originality as a songwriter. He is known as a master of words that sometimes we don’t know what his music is, with those Steve Reich-style pictures and amazing ecstatic lulling lullabies and hymns, like ‘ I Remember’ or ‘Not While I’m Around’. ‘ That’s Sondheim’s greatest piece for me.

And through his personal knowledge of Sondheim comes a more intimate understanding of his legacy.

“Cinema historians will debate Sondheim’s place for decades,” he wrote. “For me, as an actor (and, yes, a writer too) the big jump is the way he accepted the ambivalent and difficult ideas in the life of the American musical theater.

“I call it the ‘Sondheim Comma’ – the way he always says one thing and then it’s different. ‘Marry Me, A Little,’ ‘Sorry, Grateful,’ ‘Good Thing, Going.’ You’ve seen the comma in the ironic twist on his face. The songs keep turning on themselves, giving new complexities of meaning. That’s why we never get to the end of Sondheim’s work.”

His image has never been seen in the realm of cinema “in the course of history,” says Hankewich. “He really changed and revitalized Broadway. He and Andrew Lloyd Webber were the leading directors of Broadway from the 1970s until now.

“And I think a lot of people thought for a while that Broadway was dead, and if it wasn’t for people like Stephen Sondheim, most of that kind of work would have been forgotten.

“Where Stephen Sondheim excels is in his messages of hope,” says Hankewich, “and the mature themes of growing up, and the challenges and struggles that people face in their they live.”

Ccontact: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

Broadway star Melissa Errico, who won the musical of her friend, the late Stephen Sondheim, will perform with Orchestra Iowa on Sept. (By Melissa Errico)

Broadway star Melissa Errico, who won the musical of her friend, the late Stephen Sondheim, will perform with Orchestra Iowa on Sept. (By Melissa Errico)

Melissa Errico blows a little kiss to her friend and mentor, musical theater legend Stephen Sondheim. (By Melissa Errico)

Broadway star Melissa Errico prepares for a performance. The New York actor, singer and author is the featured guest at this year’s Brucemorchestra concert, “Sincerely, Sondheim.” Orchestra Iowa’s season opens Sept. 17 on the front lawn of the Brucemore mansion in southeast Cedar Rapids. (By Melissa Errico)

Members of Orchestra Iowa prepare for their performance at the 2018 Brucemorchestra concert on the front lawn at the Brucemore mansion in southeast Cedar Rapids. This year’s event will be held Sept. 17, featuring music by Stephen Sondheim. (James Makahiki/Freelance)

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