THEATRE: CURTAIN CALLS

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The Independent Culture
The one-liner about Stephen Sondheim (above) used to be that he wasn't even "out" as a Jew, let alone as a gay man. All that has changed with the absorbing publication of a biography which for the first time connects his private and public lives. Which brings us to Into the Woods.

The first half of his musical is the happy-ever-after intertwining of fairy tales. The second half, however, is darker. In the wake of the new biography, it will be interesting to see if this production at the Donmar underlines the Aids parallels. No one would be so crass as to suggest that this show - about an unexpected, unnamed disaster visited upon a disparate group of characters including Cinderella - is actually "about Aids". But it was written in New York in the 1980s. As a gay man, Sondheim must have spent a fair amount of time attending funerals during those years. And this is a musical in which people bond together in the face of death, an experience common to those who lived among the ravages of Aids.

And then there's the central character of The Baker's Wife. This immensely sympathetic character meets a prince in the woods, they have (offstage) anonymous, uncomplicated sex. And what happens to her? She dies. A coincidence?

Donmar Warehouse Earlham Street, WC2 (0171-369 1732) to 13 Feb

David Benedict

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