Sunday in the Trenches With George
Sondheim, who usually starts by looking for places to put songs in the book’s author’s text, finds one in the first few pages of Lapine, as Dot poses for Seurat on a hot Sunday. Rabbit expands on the moment in a monologue beginning with the words “First a sweat dribble,” but Sondheim thinks, “Dribble – I can’t dribble.” He changes it to “drip”. A good start, but Lapine waits so long to hear the result, or any result, that he begins to fear that Sondheim will leave him “at the altar”. The delay is in part the result of Sondheim’s core concern: “I didn’t think the show needed songs. “
November 01, 1982
On the first reading of the first act, Sondheim plays the entire score so far, which consists of four arpeggios – about 10 seconds of music.
Playwrights Horizons’ Off Broadway workshop was funded primarily by grants and “wealthy widowers,” says André Bishop, artistic director of the theater. But at least one is not on board. Dorothy Rodgers, widow of Richard Rodgers and an eminence grise of New York State arts funding, argues that Sondheim, as a “commercial” composer, does not deserve public funds. Bishop remembers writing to her, “If you think this barely half-written musical about a pointillist painter is commercial, you must be crazy!” Instead of cutting funding, he adds, “what I think you should do is get on your knees and kiss my feet.” Rodgers replies, “Dear André. Point taken.
Lapine receives a letter from Edward Kleban, the lyricist of “A Chorus Line”, suggesting that “Sunday”, which has not yet been performed, appropriate elements of the unproduced musical “Gallery”. The implicit threat of a lawsuit hangs over Broadway, as does Kleban, seen scribbling notes during previews, but a lawsuit never materializes.
May 31, 1983
On the first day of rehearsal, Peters receives an emergency call: “Your father is sick. But he’s just her stalker. Other problems are not so easily dismissed. A member of the cast resigns after a week, and several of those who remain resist what they call “sophomoric” drama and Lapine’s directing style. Spiner, who plays a driver, complains, “I don’t have a character. Where is my character? When Rabbit replies, “You are not a character, you are a color,” Spiner retorts, “Would you mind telling me what color?
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