Sondheim and Marsalis to Collaborate on Show for City Center

Posted on April 22nd, 2013 in Concerts | Tags: broadway, jazz at lincoln center orchestra, new york, new york city center, stephen sondheim

Stephen Sondheim and Wynton Marsalis are collaborating on a new show to be staged at the New York City Center next November that will feature jazz interpretations of Mr. Sondheim’s love songs.

The show, “A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love Story,” marks the first time Mr. Sondheim, one of musical theater’s great lyricists and composers, and Mr. Marsalis, the master jazz trumpeter, have worked together.

The conceit of the show is that Mr. Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will arrange and interpret about two dozen of Mr. Sondheim’s romantic songs, all of which have some connection to New York City.

While the 15-piece band plays, singers will appear on sets evoking the city’s famous locales, like Central Park and Wall Street, alternating with a set of a simple apartment with a bed and a chair. That more intimate space, mentioned in the title, is a nod to Mr. Sondheim’s song “Broadway Baby.”

The show will run for seven performances from November 13 to November 17. The performance on November 14 will serve as the entertainment for City Center’s annual Gala. A dinner will be held afterwards at the Plaza Hotel.

The collaboration is the brainchild of Peter Gethers, a novelist and editor who is a friend of Mr. Sondheim’s and a fan of Mr. Marsalis. Mr. Gether said he woke up one morning last October and thought he had never seen a first-rate jazz band perform Mr. Sondheim’s work. “I thought ‘That’s something I would pay a lot of money to see,’” he said.

Mr. Gether proposed the idea to Mr. Sondheim and to Jack Vertiel, the artistic director at New York City Center Encores! It was Mr. Vertiel who presented the concept to Mr. Marsalis, with whom he had worked in 2011 on the “Cotton Club Parade,” an celebration of Duke Ellington’s songs at City Center.

Though the general outline of the show has been sketched out, Mr. Gether said the production is still in the early stages. Mr. Sondheim and Mr. Marsalis have yet to settle on a set list or to hire vocalists, and it remains unclear if they will choose Broadway performers, jazz singers or some combination. Some of the songs might also be done as pure instrumentals, he said.