After Leonard Bernstein saw Sunday, in 1983, he wrote Sondheim a note saying the show was “brilliant, deeply conceived, canny, magisterial, and by far the most personal statement I’ve heard from you thus far. Bravo.” There is a school of criticism that says it shouldn’t matter whether a work of art is personal, only that it succeed as art. And when people are listening to Sunday a hundred years from now, maybe that’s all that will matter. (“Let others make that decision,” George’s mistress says of his legacy.) But as I positioned myself to eavesdrop in the lobby at intermission, I couldn’t help but be amazed that a song so suffused with maternal tenderness had come from a man whose own mother told him she regretted giving him his life.
In the lobby, a couple of middle-aged women in pantsuits were standing by a candy dispenser, stocking up on cough drops. One was frowning and looked unhappy. Her friend said, “I guess you’re just not a Sondheim nut.”
I suppressed an urge I’ve had before, to go forth and evangelize. The poor woman was suffering enough. Someday, maybe, the light will dawn.