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".

Going Out: Theatre: shadows

For those whose hearts sink at the prospect of the lean dramatic fare on offer this pantotide, the RSC's winter season in London is a godsend, although the acclaimed trilogy of one-act Irish plays presented under the banner Shadows is hardly cheering stuff. John Crowley - who has also directed the psychocandy Sondheim musical Into the Woods at the Donmar - has rustled up an evening themed around the subject of bereavement and informed by the harsher rhythms of rural life. There are two by Synge from 1904. In the Shadow of the Glen, the wry tale of an old farmer who tests the fidelity of his young wife by feigning death, will do something to reinstate laughter lines eradicated by the harrowing Riders to the Sea, in which two Aran Island women lament as the last of their menfolk is claimed by the deep. The evening ends with Yeats's poetic nightmare Purgatory, about a family caught in a cycle of bloodshed. Unmissable stuff.

Christmas books: Classical - They should let the music speak for them

Michael White on divas, diaries and disasters

Theatre: You can't see the wood for the trees

INTO THE WOODS DONMAR WAREHOUSE

Classical: On Air

SETTLING THE Score last Sunday afternoon on Radio 3 surveyed the bewildering world of 20th-century harmony. Harmony, Stephen Sondheim said, is what gives a composer particular character - and went on to challenge that assertion by confessing he took some of his chords from Ravel. The result didn't remind me of Ravel.

Obituary: James Goldman

THE PLAYWRIGHT, novelist and screenwriter James Goldman won the Academy Award for the screen adaptation of his own play The Lion in Winter, his dialogue described by one critic as "witty, intelligent, pithy and often mercurial". His other screenplays included Robin and Marion, and his work for the stage included the book for the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies. Particularly happy with historical subjects, he wrote the screenplay for Nicholas and Alexandra, a novel about King John, and a play about Tolstoy.

Theatre: And now for the drama of the century

The National Theatre is doing its millennial stocktake. What are the most significant plays? And what does significant mean anyway, asks David Benedict

Words: roses, n.

EVERY WRITER seeks to produce, at the very least, a classic phrase. In Gypsy, his musical about the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, Stephen Sondheim did that and more. "One of the problems," he recalls, "was to come up with a phrase that means `things are going to be better than ever' that isn't flat and yet isn't so poetic". So saying, he coined "everything's coming up roses".

Cabaret: A performance of two halves

BERNADETTE PETERS ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL LONDON

Classical: FIRST NIGHT: Flight/Glyndebourne Touring Opera

A few years ago, Jonathan Dove composed a lively, intriguing and memorable one-act chamber opera for the Almeida Festival entitled Siren Song. It concerned a naive sailor duped by a lonely-hearts penfriend who eventually turned out to be far from what she seemed.

Words: doozie, n.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM'S mother was described by one relation, Myra Berzoff, as a "doozie", which the Random House Dictionary of American Slang terms a splendid creature. This was apparently inspired by the actress Eleonora Duse.

Friday Book: The smartest man on Broadway

STEPHEN SONDHEIM: A LIFE

Good Venue Guide

39: BRIDEWELL THEATRE, EC4

Rock opera? Um, no

WHEN Andrew Lloyd Webber (allegedly) asked Alan Jay Lerner why people took an instant dislike to him, Lerner (allegedly) replied, "It saves time." And when, last weekend, I asked a group of music students propping up a seafront bar at the Aldeburgh Festival why they disliked Lloyd Webber, the consensus opinion - "because he's rich and ugly" - was much the same, if more robustly put. Responses to the life and work of music theatre's living peerhead tend to be intuitive rather than analytical. You simply know that what he does is wretched: it's a gut reaction, fuelled by outrage that so small a talent could have made it quite so big.

THEATRE: Eyeing up the talent

How many of you out there know that Stephen Sondheim wrote a Violin Sonata? To both of you I say, have you heard it? Well you can on Sunday 17 May at the Barbican, when it receives its European premiere in a Sondheim Gala Evening in aid of Cancer Research.

Theatre: Carry on cowboy

"WARNING: This show contains material that might cause offense." Thus spake the unusually winning press release for Yee-Haw!!, the self- styled "crazy, camp, cross-dressing cowboy" musical (right). Affixed beneath this fearfully stern warning was a shocking example of this downright degrading material: a piece of purple gingham.
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