Arts and Entertainment Mel Smith (right) and Griff Rhys Jones as Jones says his comedy partnership with the late Smith was

Griff Rhys Jones says his comedy partnership with the late Mel Smith was "not exactly a marriage made in heaven".

Double Take: Reviews: A Little Night Music

Olivier, London Our theatre critic Paul Taylor and music critic Edward Seckerson assess the drama and music of the National's Sondheim revival

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.



Too much safety in the home

SAFE PASSAGE Robert Allan Ackerman (15) THE MAN IN MY LIFE Jean Charles Tacchella (12) SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT Ingmar Bergman (PG)

THE CRITICS: PC plod in search of great American opera

1995 Edinburgh Festival MUSIC I WAS LOOKING AT THE CEILING: Royal Lyceum THE JACOBIN: Festival Theatre RUSLAN AND LYUDMILA: Usher Hall

Comic turn-offs

The Oxford Book of Humorous Quotations ed. Ned Sherrin Oxford £15.99

Musical youth

Those of us who remember the film do so in detail, frame by grainy black-and-white frame. There's Hayley Mills and that scene-stealing little lad, Alan Barnes, as her brother Charles. And there's Alan Bates, the stranger in the barn, the murderer on the run, the man they think is Jesus. But what really touches us in Mary Hayley Bell's enchanting story is the innocence of childhood, the wonder of discovery, the capacity for giving, loving, and believing, for keeping faith; and the growing pains th at go with it. What could possibly be added to Whistle Down the Wind that might touch us still more? Music?

UNDERRATED / Waxing lyrical: The case for Dorothy Fields

This year is the 90th anniversary of her birth and the 20th anniversary of her death, but where are the Dorothy Fields celebrations? Her career as theatrical bookwriter and lyricist spans 45 years of Broadway history. Anything the Gershwins were anywhere near is being dragged from trunks and libraries to be re- recorded, yet despite longevity, hits and awards, Fields remains virtually unknown.

MUSIC / Double Play: Giving her regards to Broadway

I WISH IT SO: Show songs by Bernstein, Blitzstein, Sondheim and Weill

Time after time: Jule Styne, 1905-94: an appreciation

JULE STYNE, who has died at 88, had a new show on Broadway only last year. The show, The Red Shoes, was a disaster but to have got it on at all at his age is an achievement, unequalled by any other composer. In that sense it was a fitting finale. Styne, only four years younger than Richard Rodgers, got to Broadway 20 years later; but made up for lost time by writing music for 22 staged shows. Before that he had written songs for countless movies, but even in Hollywood he had been a late starter, coming to the job after working as a pianist, bandleader and vocal coach.

Writers' rot and the Queen Mum syndrome

BIOGRAPHIES are generally regarded these days as sexual exposes, and so most of the excitement surrounding Michael Shelden's life of Graham Greene has centred on revelations of the writer as adulterer and homosexual. But the boldest claim in the book, it seems to me, is the biographer's contention that Greene produced no novels of real merit after the 1961 publication of A Burnt-Out Case, its title presented as emblematic and confessional. As Greene kept publishing fiction until 1988, it is effectively suggested that the last three decades of his writing life were a waste of time.

THEATRE / It's only a part of love: The word is that 'Passion', the new Sondheim musical, marks a departure. Robert Cushman saw it in New York

STEPHEN SONDHEIM has frequently been criticised for not writing songs that say 'I love you' straight out. This seems to me more of a virtue than a vice, especially when you consider the recent musicals that have fallen over themselves to say it, usually in the most bloated, generalised and pseudo-poetic terms. In treating the subject urbanely, circuitously, or obliquely, Sondheim has been following an older and nobler Broadway tradition.

MUSICAL / A funny thing happened . . .: Stephen Banfield and 16 other members of the Stephen Sondheim Society travelled to New York last week for the long awaited premiere of Sondheim's new musical, Passion. Only it didn't take place. Here he reports on the troubled gestation and hidden ambiguities of a show that finally opens tonight

So this person wrote musicals, right?' asked the woman on the airport bus, staring in bafflement at the 17 Stephen Sondheim Society badges on our 17 lapels. Patiently, we informed her that Sondheim was still alive and it was the premiere of his latest show, Passion, at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway, we - the newly formed band of aficionados - had come to New York to see.

Unsung goddess: Film star Lena Marsh was the darling of 1930s America. Now at the age of 80 she is making a comeback. Rebecca Front has this report

It's a rainy Saturday afternoon, and here's your choice: Bob Wilson's Football Focus, a fish documentary or BBC2's 1930s black-and-white matinee - Die Laughing with Eddie Cantor and Lena Marsh. Which will you go for? You'll opt for the movie, of course. It's comfort viewing, what BBC2 Controller Michael Jackson calls 'the warm bath of nostalgia'. That's why you'll start watching. But why will you keep watching?
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