Stephen Sondheim is undoubtedly one of musical theatre's greatest living writers, and at the age of 86 any new work that he is involved with becomes big news. Having provided the lyrics to hit shows such as Gypsy and West Side Story, his original musicals include Follies, A Little Night Music, Company and his love letter to London - Sweeney Todd. Whilst no Sondheim musical has originated in London, his work is big news in the theatrical landscape of the city, with his shows constantly being revived to mass critical attention. The Menier Chocolate Factory are currently hosting a sell-out revival of his 1987 collaboration with James Lapine,Into the Woods, and the same venue has provided hit revivals of A Little Night Music, Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday in the Park With George - all of which have transferred to the West End with two of them ultimately running on Broadway.
Sondheim's output has slowed down considerably since he reached his 70s, with new shows such as Passion and Assassins in the 1990s both going on to find mass critical acclaim and love from London audiences. His last musical Road Show (seen in earlier instalments as Gold, Bounce or Wise Guys) had its London premiere at the Menier in 2008, and was recently revived on the fringe at the Union Theatre.
Fans all over the world have been gripped to information regarding his upcoming musical, which recently held a workshop in New York in front of an exclusive invited audience. Throughout the past six months information about the project has slowly leaked to the press, primarily through interviews with the composer who earlier this month confirmed that it was aiming to open off-Broadway in 2017 at the Public Theater, the non-for-profit home of recent hit musicals Hamilton and Fun Home, as well as historically significant shows such as A Chorus Line and Hair.
The New York Post's Michael Riedel shed further light on the project this week in his column, citing conversations with sources who described the workshop as having a "gorgeous score", something that's to be expected from one of theatre's most celebrated composers.
As excitement continues to mount about the project, we have pulled together information from various interviews to keep track of what is known about one of the most anticipated new theatre pieces in recent memory.
1. The show's working title is Bunuel, after the director Luis Bunuel who created the surrealist films that the musical is based upon.
2. The musical is not an original story, instead it fuses two of Bunel's films together into a new narrative, his 1972's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and his 1962's "The Exterminating Angel" in a book by David Ives.
3. The story apparently focuses on "boozy, glamorous socialites who gather for frequent dinner parties and who are as cutting as they are depressed."
4. The show is in development at the Public Theater, an off-Broadway venue down-town that has a history of developing challenging new musicals.
5. The recent workshop had a cast that included Norm Lewis, Sierra Boggess, Schuler Hensley, Marc Kudisch, and Nancy Opel, although it's not known who will remain attached to the production for later development.
6. The recent workshop was only of act one, and Sondheim is reportedly working on the second act.
7. No director is currently attached to the project, although it was reported that Joe Mantello, who previously worked with Sondheim on the 2004 revival of Assassins was in attendance.
8. English composer Thomas Adès has recently written an operatic adaptation of "The Exterminating Angel," which premiered in Salzburg last month and is also aiming to open at the New York Met in 2017.
9. When asked about musical style, Sondheim replied that he's using his "own general language, which is a combination of, you know, various composers. Content dictates form and style, and the two movies are complete opposites in tone: both are satires, but one is comic, the other grim."
Stay tuned for more information about Sondheim's new musical as and when it's announced.