Theatre: STEPHEN SONDHEIM National Theatre, London

Tomorrow night sees the opening of a major revival of the 1973 musical comedy of (bad) manners, A Little Night Music, at the National Theatre. Last Thursday it was standing-room only at the Lyttelton for an evening with its composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, with not a note of music to be heard.

Anyone expecting an evening of soul bearing will have been disappointed. In the hands of musical theatre's resident renaissance man Jeremy Sands, who will direct Sondheim's latest work, Passion, next spring, the conversation was relaxed and genial. But Sondheim is famous for giving little away about the well springs of his work, let alone the personal motivations behind his creative life.

His sole British newspaper interview revealed, a trifle coyly, that, "he has never been married or had a known long-term partner", and that, it seems, is that.

He regards his work and life as being entirely separate, even denying that Into the Woods (1986), in which indiscriminate death is visited upon an entire community, has anything to do with Aids. This from a New Yorker who doubtless spent too much of the 1980s attending funerals.

What the talk made clear was the collaborative nature of musicals and, for the huge mix of earnest young composers, directors and good old-fashioned fans who packed the auditorium, that was plenty to be getting on with.

As far back as 1957, following the success of West Side Story for which Sondheim supplied the lyrics, he and Hal Prince decided to do a romantic comedy. They tried to get the rights to Anouilh's "truly sour, mean play" Ring Around the Moon, but were told, "Only if Leonard Bernstein does the music".

He remained attracted to the idea of combining "lightness of texture with sharpness of attack" in a work which obeyed the dramatic unities of time, manner and place, and after another failed attempt several years later to secure the Anouilh they opted for Bergman's exquisitely dark romantic comedy Smiles of the Summer Night.

Sondheim observes that every time he hears the score or watches the show, "I expect not to like it, but I do." This is good news for the current production, which he has been working on with its director Sean Mathias, a first-timer in the genre. Yet, with several previews and rehearsals still to go, he remained tantalisingly silent on that subject.

He chatted happily about his and the show's big hit "Send in the Clowns", written during rehearsals expressly for the short-breathed Glynis Johns, and wisely dismissed the film, which featured Liz Taylor's version of the song assembled from a sea of separate edits.

His tale of coming up with the grand full-company finale "A Weekend in the Country" late in the day made everyone wonder just what he had actually written before they began.

"Why do they have to have him sitting in a hospital room?" remarked one audience member to a friend. It was not deliberate. The stage was set for a performance of What the Butler Saw. With Orton's emphasis on language, artifice and, above all, irony it was, however, deliciously appropriate.

n `A Little Night Music' opens at the Olivier tomorrow. Booking: 0171- 928 2252

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam