Stephen Sondheim, Cleopatra, and More Culture Recommendations
Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. This week, a venerable composer sings his way to print, an eerie new show of art world celebrities, and Cleopatra climbs the charts.
Stephen Sondheim’s Writer’s Block
The composer of Sweeney Todd, Follies, and a thousand other Broadway smashes with instantly recognizable tunes is now giving us a little peek into his genius. His new book of annotated lyrics, Finishing the Hat, covers his biggest successes—and dishes a little dirt on the Great White Way. (He tells a story about diva Ethel Merman chewing out co-star Jerry Orbach—no surprise there—but all Orbach did was react to her lines!) Sondheim spoke to Shannon Donnelly about taking 16 years to dig through his lyrics and write this tome and why he sees the best young talent come from Off-Broadway.
A VIP Portrait Show
Jasper Johns is there. So are artists Cindy Sherman, Alex Katz, Chuck Close and Lisa Yuskavage. Glenn Lowry, the head of the Museum of Modern Art, and Lisa Phillips, of the New Museum, are side-by-side with collectors Leonard Lauder, Marie-Josee Kravis, Agnes Gund and dozens of similar luminaries at Lucas Samaras’ new photography exhibition “Poses,” opened this week at the Pace Gallery. Most of his posers hadn’t seen their images (some are less than flattering) before the opening party this week. “I told them all it would not be pretty,” he says, “but I also said there would be no distortions.” Judith H. Dobrzynski reviews the show, plus preview the works on Art Beast.
All Hail Cleopatra!
Forget the sexy seductress of history. Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra proves that she was a steely master of realpolitik at home, in war, and grand strategy, writes Michael Korda on The Daily Beast. Some people are so famous that the legends about them and the cultural aftermath of their life obscure the real human being. But we should now no longer remember the heavy eye make-up of Elizabeth Taylor’s Egyptian queen or Vivien Leigh on stage. With a clear eye and great courage, Stacy Schiff has created a masterpiece and firmly cemented a new Cleopatra in our minds—one who had enough sex appeal to sleep with the two most powerful men in the world, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Don’t miss her eminently readable new book out now.