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".

They never had it so weird

Radio 3 round-up

Somewhere, over the West End

Fingers crossed at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley; if all goes well, `Jekyll' could be a monster. W Stephen Gilbert goes behind the scenes, and below, David Benedict looks at the musicals that fell at the first

Sondheim's very little night music

IMAGINE a new musical of Othello where the creators spell out the content. Let's call it Jealousy. Instead of individual numbers, Jealousy threads its motifs and refrains in and out of scenes, so characters share melodies and dispute the idea from different angles: "jealousy is ...", "jealousy isn't ...", "jealousy does ...", "jealousy doesn't ..." There's a new musical which does this, based on the film Passione d'Amore (1982), which itself is based on a 19th-century Italian novel, Fosca. The composer and lyricist is Stephen Sondheim, and the bookwriter is James Lapine. The melodies wind in and out of scenes as characters tell us: "love is ...", "love isn't ...", "love has ...", "love was ...". Passion, it emerges, is one big theme tune.

Russian voices rise from the rubble

The Russian State Choir sang Tavener's score like a Bolshoi Opera B-team

Arts: Double take

The theatre critic Paul Taylor and the music critic Edward Seckerson compare notes on Stephen Sondheim's musical 'Passion'

Theatre: Between the lines

`Samuel Beckett's Happy Days reminds the actress and comedian Rebecca Front of university and other unavoidably grim aspects of life

A little nightmare

Stephen Sondheim has taken so much grief over the years for writing brainy musicals that are too good for Broadway, you'd think that theatregoers might be relieved with his first non-musical, a nice, easily digestible murder mystery entitled Getting Away With Murder, written with his collaborator on Company, George Furth. However, in the wake of the Sunday opening at the Broadhurst Theater, New York, this may be Sondheim's biggest critical failure since Anyone Can Whistle in 1964.

Learn to be free

As Passion sweeps into the West End, Paul Taylor looks at Sondheim in amorous mode, while, below, David Patrick Stearns reviews his first non-musical, Getting Away With Murder, upon its New York opening

Moving in very good Company

THEATRE

Musical; Company; Albery Theatre, London

Newly arrived in Manhattan, kooky, exuberant Marta has one ambition. "I want to get all dressed up in black, black dress, black shoes, hat, everything and go sit in some bar at the end of the counter and drink and cry. That is my dream of honest-to-God sophistication." For many, Company is the last word on sophistication. Sondheim's slick, sharp show is a revue-like series of scenes from marriages spliced together around unmarried Bobby, who ducks and dives beneath the attentions and distractions of "these good and crazy people - my married friends". It's a glittering, multi-faceted diamond of a show which re-invented the musical.

GOING OUT: THE FIVE BEST PLAYS

THE CHANGING ROOM. David Storey's highly atmospheric portrait of a rugby league team before, during and after the game. Duke of York's, WC2 (0171 836 5122) to 30 Mar. Mon-Sat 7.30-9.40. M: Wed & Sat 3.00.

MUSIC: Your Ives questions answered

PIONEER cultures do without art because their needs are basic; but sooner or later they reach a time of societal adolescence when the needs-base rises and sensitivity makes its first awkward, apologetic appearance at the log-cabin door. In America it happened around the turn of this century. And in American music the prime pubertal figure stumbling over that threshold of consciousness was Charles Ives (1874-1954): composer, baseball player, businessman, manufacturer of what he called "manly" dissonances (as opposed to the "pansy" politeness of less robust writing), and in almost every sense the Ernest Hemingway of his art.

MUSIC; Sondheim's unease feels good

IT'S THE disturbance factor in Stephen Sondheim musicals - the lingering, after-hours emotional fall-out - that makes them bad box-office but mature art. And it was Company - premiered 25 years ago at the Alvin Theatre, New York and now in a new production at the Donmar Warehouse - which defined what that maturity was. A maturity of unknowing. Life, says Sondheim in his come-of-age way, isn't a clean sweep of happy endings or, alternatively, tragic loss. Nothing so comfortable. Our curtains come down nightly on unanswered questions, unresolved dilemmas, and the struggle to know even our own minds, let alone what other people think. And there you have the story of Company - although "story" is a strong word for something which is more a revue than a plotted narrative.

REVIEWS : Music Ute Lemper Royal Festival Hall, London

The first shock is at how gaunt she is, and how unlike the album covers and publicity shots. Under the sickly green light of the early numbers, she's a streetcorner tart from an Edward Hopper painting, hugging her arms too tightly around her full-length black coat. Two hours later, after the dizzying encore of Piaf's "The Accordionist", she runs from the stage as if in distress. Amid the cheers and the tumultuous applause we await the retort of a revolver shot from the wings. Instead she re- emerges to take her bows, already reconstituted into the svelte figure familiar from the photos in the programme, while we, the audience, seem prematurely harrowed by age and suffering. Twenty minutes later she's sat in the foyer, smilingly signing CD's to a queue of hundreds, just, as someone said, Marlene Dietrich once autographed high-denomination banknotes for her fans.

Music: A lot of Night Music

STEPHEN SONDHEIM'S A Little Night Music is his Rosenkavalier: a piece of purposeful regression that takes time out from the contemporary American soul-scraping of its predecessors, Company and Follies, and waltzes back to the period niceties of country-house romantic comedy. And like Rosenkavalier, Night Music is Mozartian, decked out in irony and waltz tunes but dramatically indebted to Cosi and Figaro. It tells a story of mismatched relationships put to the test, found wanting, and re-ordered on a (maybe) better footing in a garden on a summer's night. Pure 18th- century. Pure Viennese. Pure whipped-cream.
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