(Emma Brockes’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/10.)

Stephen Sondheim once gave James Lapine, his friend and longtime collaborator, a useful if inadvertent piece of advice. The two first worked together in the mid-1980s on Sunday in the Park With George, and a revival of their second musical,Into the Woods, is transferring from the US to London this summer. They are very different, says Lapine, when we meet in a rehearsal space near Times Square in New York. Although in life, Sondheim is “the dark soul and I’m the light one”, when it comes to work, Lapine characterises himself as the gloomier of the two. “I just think everything will flop,” he says, while Sondheim once shocked him by saying: “‘You know, I think everything I do is going to be a huge success.’ I said really? Why? He said because it’s so interesting to me, I assume it will be interesting to others.”

The lesson of this is to confine one’s anxieties to the project at hand. When I see Sondheim a day later at his home in New York, he confirms that Into the Woods was not written as a critique of the contemporary world, nor with an eye on the box office nor the potential longevity of its appeal. “I was just thinking about telling these fairytales,” he says. “I had no sense of anything but showbiz.”


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