From Playbill comes news that Stephen Sondheim, the godhead of American musical theater, is writing his first new musical in over a decade. Sondheim’s last proper musical, the ambitious but indifferently received Road Show (previously Bounce, previously Wise Guys, previously Gold!), premiered in Chicago in 2003, and subsequently underwent extensive revisions over the course of several productions and many years. The currently untitled two-act production, written in collaboration with playwright David Ives, is angling to premiere off-Broadway in 2017.
But as if the prospect of new work from one of the most gifted composers and lyricists to ever write for the American stage weren’t enough, there’s this: the new musical, which was first first teased in 2014, will be an adaptation of two closely related films by Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel. The first act will be based on The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1972), one of the masterpieces of Buñuel’s late French period, which concerns a group of well-off friends trying to sit down to dinner only to be interrupted by unexplained and dreamlike digressions. The second act will be based on Buñuel’s caustic The Exterminating Angel (1962), the last feature he shot in Mexico, set at a lavish dinner party that none of the guests can bring themselves to leave.
Sondheim’s musicals have been adapted to film in Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods, and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, as well as in West Side Story, for which he wrote the lyrics. (We’re still waiting for someone to tackle Pacific Overtures.) Despite a lifelong interest in film and a brief early career as a TV writer, Sondheim has done very little original work for film—and the little he’s done has mostly been inspired by his own endearingly esoteric interests. He co-wrote the Edgar Award-winning screenplay for The Last Of Sheila with actor and fellow scavenger hunt enthusiast Anthony Perkins, and has penned two original film scores, for Alain Resnais’ Stavisky… and Warren Beatty’s Reds, both about outsiders who become tangentially involved in the history of the Soviet Union.