Careers of Sondheim, Humphrey Celebrated at PFW
Updated: Mar 13
Just three months after his passing, Stephen Sondheim’s legacy has been discussed by critics, fans, and even casual observers, millions of whom have enjoyed his work for decades. Just weeks after his death, Stephen Spielberg’s added to the catalog with the release of his remake of the popular 1961 film West Side Story. With the focus on Sondheim’s lifetime of accomplishments on the minds of many throughout the world, the timing of Purdue Fort Wayne’s production of Sondheim on Sondheim couldn’t be better. But as fortuitous as it may seem, this timing is entirely accidental.
“Craig Humphrey had retired just before the pandemic, and we were going to do this the spring of the pandemic,” said John O’Connell, Dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts. “Then we were down for a year and a half.”
The staging of Sondheim on Sondheim two years after originally planned and just months after his death may seem like fate, but the production also marks another significant milestone for director Craig Humphrey and the PFW Department of Theatre.
“This was intended to be Craig’s swan song,” O’Connell said. “Craig loves no author/composer more than Sondheim, and this is his perfect last contribution to the university. Members of the community have joined the student cast, good friends and stalwart actors who wanted another chance to perform for him.”
O’Connell thinks Sondheim on Sondheim will appeal to those with just a passing knowledge of the composer as well as those who think they know most of his work.
“There are some pieces that I’m not familiar with, and I’m excited about that,” he said. “There aren’t many things I haven’t seen yet, but Sondheim can be difficult. This compilation includes many songs that are gems but not really popular at all. Bringing this musical revue to the university is overdue, and as his last directing opportunity at the university, it’s a chance for everyone to see a fine director’s work.”
O’Connell’s appreciation for Humphrey goes beyond his professional respect. O’Connell came to then IPFW as an outsider, hired to be Chair of the Department of Theatre. He found Humphries an immediately accepting colleague and friend.
“When I arrived at the university, Craig welcomed me with open arms. He was so gracious to me as the newcomer, the new kid on the block, and let me make decisions to move the department in other directions. He never questioned anything I was doing. He could have been an old stodgy, but he was never been anything but supportive. We also had very similar backgrounds with song and dance careers, and we had found our areas in theatre – he in costuming, me in directing. We had a kindredship, around the same age and theatre experience, similar taste in plays. I was really fortunate to have him on the faculty when I arrived.
“He is a true man of the theatre,” O’Connell added. “This is a real celebration of his career.”
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260-481-6555. The show runs through February 27.