Melissa Errico: Desert Island Sondheim
Prior to her London solo cabaret debut at the Crazy Coqs, Broadway star Melissa Errico spoke to The Stephen Sondheim Society about her favourite Sondheim shows, songs and roles...
1. What are your three favourite Sondheim songs and why?
Unfair question! It’s been hard enough getting my concert down to 16 songs. I’ll answer this but I will be changing my mind by the time I get to the end of my reply.
I love “I Remember” from Evening Primrose because it's a sublime song, a mood song, a trance-like poem in a sense, about memory and what we choose to remember.
I adore “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd because there is pure love in it – it is perfect proof that Sondheim teaches us to protect the most helpless ones we find. I love the Act One finale to Sunday in the Park with George because it represents everything I believe in – radically unlike people coming together in harmony, people of all kinds in a beautiful ensemble. Ok, now can i start my answer again, with three more!?
2. What is your favourite Sondheim song to perform and why?
Dot in Sunday in The Park With George.
I loved portraying her because she has so many wonderful songs – and moments – about making choices. She struggles to talk herself into loving Louis (everyone else loves him!!), and she holds some good debates with George and inside herself. The role is full of learning to choose, and the cost of certain choices, and the fact that we have to keep making choices in life, in order to survive.
3. What Sondheim role would you most like to play and why?
I’m going to skip over the ones that could possibly happen in the short term. I would hate to jinx myself! Actresses all have dreams. Maybe it’s best to keep them to your prayers. In the event that anyone reads this and the proverbial lightbulb might go off, I am ready to sing “Send in The Clowns” eight shows a week. Down the road, I sure would like a shot at Mrs Lovett!! I must get to sing “A Little Priest!” Angela Lansbury is everything.
4. What Sondheim lyric do you carry with you in your life?
"Careful the tale you tell, that is the spell."
["Children Will Listen", Into The Woods]
5. What has Sondheim brought to your life and career, so far?
Sondheim himself? As a teacher, both directly and from studying him (listening to interviews and reading about him), he has brought me the ability to take criticism (to want it) and to trust myself, all at the same time. Strive and correct – but also take charge. The little I know of him outside of work, Sondheim seems to not like self-deprecation – I think he feels some of us waste a good deal of energy pulling ourselves down. Self-deprecation isn’t cute – it isn’t good for ourselves and it isn’t good for the human community.