New York cabaret singers like to sniff that they can't perform Stephen Sondheim songs more than 50 miles outside the city because the provinces "just don't get" him.
On Nov. 23, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will prove those New York snobs gloriously wrong with an entire program devoted to the esteemed Broadway composer.
It's hard to hang a "cult" label, after all, on a musical theater legend whose works include the crowdpleasing A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the penny dreadful Sweeney Todd. Before he insisted on being both the composer and lyricist on all his musicals, Sondheim wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. He won an Oscar for a song Madonna sang in the movie Dick Tracy.
A couple of years ago, a taped-live edition of Sondheim's show Company aired in movie theaters, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert, Jon Cryer, Christina Hendricks and Patti LuPone. A big-screen, big-budget movie of Into the Woods (which has easily become Sondheim's most-produced score, if only for all the school and community groups that do it each year) will star Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.
The 7:30 p.m. Saturday Hartford Symphony "Pops!" performance of Symphonic Sondheim — A Tribute to the Composer's Classics will be conducted by Tim Stella and sung by Broadway musical veterans Florence Lacey, Hugh Panaro, Ron Raines and Lisa Vroman. Expect tunes from A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and other exquisitely arranged Sondheim shows. It's at the Bushnell (166 Capitol Ave., Hartford; bushnell.org or hartfordsymphony.org).
There are several alternatives to this Sondheim saturation. On the selfsame Nov. 23, the Oakdale (oakdale.com) has fulminating Daily Show fixture Lewis Black, while New Britain's Hole in the Wall Theater (hitw.org) has a world premiere of the "zany sex comedy" Whacked by Connecticut playwright Scott Stephen Kegler Nov. 22 through Dec. 14. The Garde Arts Center in New London (gardearts.org) covers all the bases this week with a couple of hot shows in the venue's intimate Oasis Room — avant-garde jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas Nov. 21 and cabaret singer Sara Gazarek (will she do Sondheim?) Nov. 23 — plus a Connecticut Lyric Opera production of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman 8 p.m. Nov. 23. Majesty and grandeur all around.