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Mind Openers: Sondheim and Rich Reprise


By Randi Schmelzer

Published Jan 1, 2008 8:00 AM


Copyright © Photo Courtesy of UCLA Live

Imagine — just for a moment — American musical theater without Stephen Sondheim.

There would be no Gypsy, no Company, and no Sunday in the Park with George. Nothing funny would happen on the way to the forum, and gaggles of gloomy clowns would wait forever to be sent in. And Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story wouldn't have lyrics.

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd? Never happen.

The repertoires of Barbra Streisand and Mandy Patinkin? Significantly slimmer.

But Sondheim's dramatic impact extends far beyond the fans of Broadway show tunes, to American culture at large. Few can help demonstrate this as well as New York Times op-ed columnist and bestselling author Frank Rich. The Times' chief theater critic from 1980 until 1993, Rich interviewed Sondheim for a New York Times Magazine cover story to mark the ever-rebellious composer and lyricist's 70th birthday in 2000. That was followed by a then once-in-a-lifetime event: a Sondheim-Rich tête-à-tête onstage at New York's Kennedy Center.

Now, UCLA Live is hosting a reprise of that history-making evening. As part of its spoken-word series, in March, UCLA Live will present "A Little Night Conversation," in which Rich will once again guide the Tony-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist through a career-spanning chat, touching upon the professional and personal highlights that have made Sondheim simultaneously Great White Way royalty and revolutionary.

A Little Night Conversation. Royce Hall. Thursday, March 13 at 8 p.m. $74, $58, $38, $25 UCLA students. For more information, call (310) 825-4401 or log on to