BY BILLY SUTER
WHAT does the helmsman of the USS Enterprise spacecraft in TV’s Star Trek have in common with master of musicals, Stephen Sondheim, creator of such classic shows as Into the Woods, Company and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street?
The answer is the now-80-year-old George Takei, the American actor, director, author, and activist of Japanese descent, who is best known for playing Hikaru Sulu in the classic Star Trek series of yesteryear.
The Sondheim connection is that Takei is now in preview performances Off Broadway in a revival, by the Classic Stage Company, of Sondheim and John Weidman’s 1976 musical, Pacific Overtures.
The show focuses on Commodore Matthew Perry and his journey to Japan in 1853 on a US mission to open up trade relations. It tells of a samurai and a fisherman caught up in the westernisation of the East.
The revival is in good hands – direction and design is by Scottish-born John Doyle, a theatre and opera director who served as artistic director at several regional theatres in the UK, where he has staged more than 200 professional productions in his 40-year career.
He was highly praised for his 2005 Broadway production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, for which he won a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award.
The Pacific Overtures revival reportedly also features Karl Josef Co, Marc delaCruz, Steven Eng, Megan Masako Haley, Ann Harada, Kimberly Immanuel, Austin Ku, Kelvin Noon Ho, Orville Mendoza, Marc Oka and Thom Sesma.
It began preview performances on April 6 at CSC, l 136 East 13th Street, New York, for a limited engagement until May 27. Opening night is set for May 4, reports Playbill.
Other news regarding Sondheim is that BroadwayWorld.com has reported the master composer and lyricist as denying that his next musical will be titled Bunuel.
It had been reported online that a workshop of Sondheim’s latest musical had been in progress. The work was said to have been based on the Luis Bunuel films The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Exterminating Angel (1962).
Word was that the show, to be titled Bunuel, was headed for the Great White Way in 2018.
BroadwayWorld.com has stated that Sondheim has mailed them to clarify, emphasising that there is no title yet for the new musical, and that earlier reports stating the title as Bunuel were incorrect.
The now 87-year-old Sondheim, whose musicals include Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Passion and Sunday in the Park With George, has received an Oscar and eight Tony Awards – more than any other composer, and including a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
The theatre icon, who wrote lyrics for the hit shows Gypsy and West Side Story, also has eight Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize, the Laurence Olivier Award and a 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom, reports Wikipedia.