Broadway World
by Alexa Criscitiello – June 21, 2021

At 91 years old and with credits that range from “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” to “Sweeney Todd” and “Into The Woods” just to name a few, Stephen Sondheim remains one of Broadway’s most pivotal voices.

This month, as part of their Back to Broadway Summer Concert Series, The Encore Musical Theatre Company honors Broadway’s greatest living composer with Simply Sondheim.

“The guy’s a genius,” said Simply Sondheim director and Encore Artistic Director Dan Cooney. “He really is one of a kind. No other composer has produced the breadth of work that Sondheim has. Maybe we’ll see that with Lin-Manual Miranda (Hamilton), but that remains to be seen.”

Stephen Sondheim grew up under the guidance of Golden Age composer Oscar Hammerstein, who served as a surrogate father after Sondheim’s own father abandoned the family. Cooney adds that, through Hammerstein, Sondheim “learned the rules of the form; through his own genius, he played with those rules, bent them, and created something new for composers to emulate.”

The lyrical complexity of Hamilton is already familiar to anyone who has ever heard Sondheim’s “patter songs” like “Getting Married Today” (Company) or “A Little Priest” (Sweeney Todd), both of which are featured in The Encore production.

“Simply Sondheim” features Broadway actress Jessica Grové (Thoroughly Modern Mille, Les Misérables) along with Encore mainstays David MoanSarah Stevens, and Chris Joseph.

On Broadway, Grové sung Sondheim in “Sunday In The Park With George” and “A Little Night Music,” a show known for its much-performed “Send In The Clowns.” Grové, who also appeared in a benefit reading of the never-before-stage Evening Primrose also believes Sondheim “reinvented the America musical.”

“Steve writes for the actor,” she adds. “It’s fully formed and complex. If you can master Sondheim, you can perform musical theatre.”

As The Encore resumes productions, Cooney adds, “We are doing these concerts to highlight the complexity and beauty found in his catalog like ‘Finishing The Hat,’ ‘Being Alive,’ ‘Anyone Can Whistle,’ and the absolutely stunning ‘Sunday.’

Simply Sondheim runs June 24-26 at The Encore Musical Theatre Company in Dexter, Michigan.