PLAY PRODUCTIONS: Photograph, New York, Open Space Theatre, 21 September 1977; Table Settings, New York, Playwrights Horizons, 14 Janu¬ ary 1980; March of the Falsettos (with William Finn), New York, Playwrights Horizons, 9 April 1981; Twelve Dreams, New York, New York Shakespeare Festi¬ val Public Theatre, 22 December 1981; Sunday in the Park with George (with Stephen Sondheim), New York, Booth Theatre, 2 May 1984; Into the Woods (with Sondheim), San Diego, Old Globe Theatre, 4 December 1986; revised version, New York, Martin Beck Theatre, 5 November 1987; revival, New York, Broadhurst Theatre, 30 April 2002; Falsettoland (with Finn), New York, Playwrights Hori¬ zons, 28June 1990; Falsettos (with Finn), New York, Golden Theatre, 29 April 1992; Luck, Pluck, and Virtue, Lajolla, Lajolla Playhouse, 2 August 1993; revised version, New York, Atlantic Theatre Company, 4 April 1995; Passion (with Sondheim), New York, Plymouth Theatre, 9 May 1994; A New Brain (with Finn), New York, Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, 18 June 1998; The Hunchback of Notre Dame (with Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz), Berlin, Musical Theatre at the Potsdamer Platz, 5 June 1999; Dirty Blonde (with Claudia Shear), New York, New York Theatre Workshop, 10 January 2000; moved to New York, Helen Hayes Theatre, 1 May 2000; The Moment When, New York, Playwrights Horizons, 21 March 2000; Muscle (with Finn and Ellen Fitzhugh), Chicago, Pegasus Players, 13 June 2001; Fran's Bed, New Haven, Conn., Long Wharf Theatre, Fall 2003. BOOKS: Table Settings: A Comedy (New York: S. French, 1980); March of the Falsettos (New York: S. French, 1981); Twelve Dreams (New York: Performing Arts Journal Pub¬ lications, 1982); Into the Woods, with Stephen Sondheim (New York: The¬ atre Communications Group, 1987); Into the Woods, with Sondheim, adaptation and illustra¬ tions by Hudson Talbott (New York: Crown, 1988); The Marvin Songs: Three One-act Musicals, with William Finn (Garden City, N.Y.: Fireside Theatre, 1989); Sunday in the Park with George, with Sondheim (New York: Applause, 1991); Falsettos, with Finn (New York: Plume, 1993); Passion, with Sondheim (New York: Theatre Communi¬ cations Group, 1994); Dirty Blonde, with Claudia Shear (New York: S. French, 2003). Edition: Table Settings: A Contemporary Comedy (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1982). James Lapine, playwright, librettist, director, graphic artist, and photographer, is perhaps best known for his work in the musical theatre, collaborating with composer-lyricists William Finn and Stephen Sond¬ heim. But as a playwright and director, his body of work also includes straight plays, the classics of William Shakespeare, film, and multimedia. Considering his background in graphic arts and photography, Lapine's work is often marked by a strong visual sense. In an article by Barbara Isenberg, fellow director Des McAnuff compared a Lapine production to "an exquis¬ itely moving graphic." Lapine's artistic vision and sense of what a production should look like manifests itself in his meticulous planning before rehearsals even begin. He plots the show out on a floor plan beforehand, com¬ paring his plan to a kind of storyboard as in film. There is a cinematic quality to his directing, with its continu¬ ous action and sweeping scene shifts. Lapine suggests he began writing in order to have something good to direct, and he prefers the collaborative form of musical theatre creation to the lonely and exhausting role of the James L a p i n ■ A Contemporary Comedy I'S I * 1982 W i Coverfor the 1982 edition of James Lapine 's 1980play, written while he was at the Edna St. Vincent Millay Writers' Colony (Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina) solo playwright. If Lapine's directorial style is driven by a single vision, his writing style is not always quite so direct. He admits that he likes to rewrite work when it is on its feet in rehearsal, and he often tends to change scripts when he gets them in front of an audience in order to achieve his important goal of telling the story with clarity. He strives to make everything he does have something to say; the themes that he explores in his work include growing up, parent-child relationships, myth, family, beauty, the nature of happiness in the modern world, and a fascination with psychology that began with his reading of Carl Jung's Man and his Sym¬ bols. Lapine is proud of the fact that he has taken on dif¬ ficult topics in his career; indeed, he often seems to tackle subjects that defy dramatization. He enjoys the challenge of taking something hard and making it work. Referred to in an article by Jeffrey Hogrefe as "Broad¬ way's best-kept secret," Lapine suggests that his collabo¬ ration on three musicals with the older and more famous Sondheim has tended to keep his other work in the shadows, but with no formal theatrical training, Lapine has compiled an impressive list of credits and awards in his own right. Yet, nothing in his background or education would have led him to believe that he would enjoy such success in the world of the theatre. James Elliot Lapine was born in Mansfield, Ohio, on 10 January 1949 and moved to Connecticut with his parents, David and Lillian (Feld) Lapine, at the age of twelve. With the exception of playing Jack in a school production of Jack and. the Beanstalk at the age of seven, Lapine admits that he was not at all involved in theatre during his childhood. In 1971 he graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a degree in Middle Eastern history. Afterward, his inter¬ est in art and photography led him to enroll at the Cali¬ fornia Institute of the Arts, from which he graduated in 1973 with a master of fine arts degree in graphic design. Intending to pursue a career in art photography or film direction, Lapine supported himself in New York as a photographer and waiter, where he admits he had the opportunity to observe and eavesdrop on people. These two occupations, he later explained, had been excellent preparation for what would eventually become his career as a writer and director. He told Isenberg, "A photographer is always framing images, so by the time you put the two together, it's not such a big leap to what I do now." Ironically, Lapine's first involvement with theatre came when he was teaching a course in graphic design for theatre administrators at the Yale School of Drama. With his students he often discussed his preference for the abstract, avant-garde type of theatre created by directors such as Robert Wilson and Richard Foreman. The students, in turn, encouraged him to direct a project during a period known as January work month, when students and faculty were invited to put on a pro¬ duction of their own choosing. Lapine's directorial experiment, Photograph (1977), was a visual spectacle with a jazz score and consisted of a multimedia staging of a three-page poem by Gertrude Stein. The dissoci¬ ated fragments of Stein's text were juxtaposed with music, sound, light, dark, choreographed movement, and kaleidoscopic projections of striking images. One of the images used was Georges Seurat's painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island, of La Grande Jatte, a work that would figure prominently in Lapine's later career. When Photograph received a favorable review in a local paper, it caught the attention of Lee Breuer, the founder and director of Mabou Mines, who urged Lapine to take the production to New York. While researching ways to finance the production, Lapine dis¬ covered that Jasper Johns was an admirer of Stein's work, so he wrote to the Jasper Johns Foundation and received the funds needed to move Photograph to Off- Broadway's Open Space Theatre. The production received a 1978 Obie Award Special Citation and some good reviews. Critic Richard Eder of The New York Times noted the similarity of Photograph's style to the language of dreams, where unrelated images appear arbitrarily juxtaposed according to the unknown logic of the sub¬ conscious mind. The success of Lapine's New York directorial debut led naturally to more opportunities. Members of the Music Theatre Performing Group who had seen Photograph put him in contact with the Edna St. Vincent Millay Writers' Colony in New York, where he began work on a play. Lapine admits that he was amazed at his own gall in assuming the role of playwright with no background in creative writing. Table Settings (1980), the play that Lapine wrote at the Millay Colony, began as an abstract, avant-garde piece about ajewish family, somewhat in the same vein as Photograph. It was during a 1979 workshop at Play¬ wrights Horizons, then under the artistic direction of Andre Bishop, that the piece developed into a more structured comedy. Table Settings consists of a series of mealtime vignettes depicting the stereotypical members of a highly strung, middle-class Jewish family. The play received a full production, under Lapine's own direc¬ tion, at Playwrights Horizons in 1980. Critics were divided in their opinions of Table Settings. Some found the content trite and farcical, while others applauded Lapine's good-natured wit and perception. Walter Ken- found the stylized, nonlinear form lacking in its dra¬ matic structure. As a director, however, Lapine received praise for his sleek, fluid staging. While the reviews of the writing were mixed, Table Settings eventually won its author the George Oppenheimer Award for the best new American playwright whose work is produced in New York City and environs. Looking back on the piece, Lapine described it as commercial, yet arty at the same time, "downtown" as well as "uptown." In addition to his work at Playwrights Horizons, the early 1980s marked the beginning of Lapine's asso¬ ciation with the New York Shakespeare Festival. His work with these two prestigious theatres would prove crucial to his developing career, for his two future musi¬ cal collaborators were impressed with productions that inspired them to seek out Lapine. The collaboration with composer-lyricist Finn resulted from Lapine's flair for comedy as evidenced in his direction of Table Set¬ tings. Finn saw the production and felt that its fresh, fast, and funny style was perfect for the musical stage. Because Lapine also came from a nontraditional back¬ ground, Finn felt that they would work well together and sought out the burgeoning playwright-director. Their collaboration resulted in a production at Play¬ wrights Horizons titled March of the Falsettos (1981), with Finn as composer-lyricist and Lapine as director. The successful one-act musical, which was hailed by critic Frank Rich of The New York Times as "the most talented new off-Broadway musical to emerge in the 1980's," tells the story of Marvin, a Jewish man who has acknowledged his own homosexuality, left his wife and son, and moved in with another man. In turn, the rejected wife becomes romantically involved with Mar¬ vin's psychiatrist. At the time the subject matter was audacious, exploring sexual identity and new notions of what constitutes a family. Originally working with just a collection of songs, director Lapine was instrumental in helping to connect, organize, and revise the material into a cohesive whole. The minimalist staging and mod¬ ular setting helped to focus attention on the characters scene design TABLE SETTINGS +30 + 12 + 12 top half of dutch door dc ■to table (plus expanded) overhead door/ in paneling; \ f/ PICTURE FRAME THAT FORMS THE PROSCENIUM PICTURE FRAME THAT FORMS THE PROSCENIUM niustrationfrom the first edition of Lapine's play (firm Table Settings, 1980; Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina) and plot, and Lapine was lauded for the intelligence and vitality of his direction. That same year Lapine wrote and directed his play Twelve Dreams (1981) at the New York Shakespeare Festival, then under the artistic leadership of Joseph Papp. Originally developed as a work-in-progress at the Music Theatre Performance Group, the play was sug¬ gested by a case study written by Jung and centers around a widowed psychiatrist and his ten-year-old daughter, who predicts her own death through a series of disturbing dreams. What particularly intrigued Lapine about Jung's work was the emphasis on arche¬ types that appear in dreams through the force of the col¬ lective unconscious, a common psychic reservoir of mythic symbols common to all humankind. The unusual subject matter, coupled with Lapine's strong visual sense and theatrical staging, caused the produc¬ tion to be included in Newsweek!s list of the Best of Off- Broadway in 1981. Unbeknownst to Lapine, Broadway's most famous composer-lyricist was in the audience at Twelve Dreams one evening, and particularly admired both the writing and directing. Sondheim had recently suffered the critical and financial failure of Merrily We Roll Along, which marked the end of a string of productions directed by his friend and longtime collaborator, Harold Prince. Sondheim had been so hurt by the response to his most recent musical that he even considered giving up the theatre, but the production of Twelve Dreams impressed him enough to wonder if Lapine would be interested in writing a musical. Claiming that he was too shy to call himself, Sondheim was eventually intro¬ duced to Lapine by a mutual acquaintance, and the two writers decided to begin meeting to see if they could come up with ideas for a new project. In the meantime, however, Lapine continued to direct. After having done Twelve Dreams at the New York Shakespeare Festival, he was invited back the following year to direct A Midsum¬ mer Night's Dream at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park (1982). Attracted to the play's themes of dreams and love, Lapine researched myth and folklore and set his production in a lush pastoral setting designed by Heidi Landesman. Not entirely successful, the produc¬ tion received generally unfavorable reviews, and Lapine's direction was criticized for its unevenness, bizarre casting (including a rather stiff William Hurt as Oberon), cutting of text, and ungainly variety of con¬ cepts. Robert Brustein of the New Republic made refer¬ ence to Lapine's relatively short theatrical career by titling his review "Learning on the Job." Dismayed by the negative reaction to his work, Lapine had to admit that A Midsummer Night's Dream was not his best work; yet, he would return to the Public several years later to direct A Winter's Tale. During 1982, while Lapine was directing A Mid¬ summer Night's Dream, he continued his meetings with Sondheim. Lapine described their collaborative process to author Stephen Holden as "two guys sitting in a room schmoozing." During these meetings Lapine brought out various images to see if they sparked any kind of creative response. Eventually, the image that stirred their imaginations the most was Seurat's A Sun¬ day Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Looking at the pointillist painting of middle-class leisure in nineteenth- century Paris, Lapine noted that the most important person was missing—the artist. The resulting work, Sun¬ day in the Park with George (1984), begins with a fictional account of the life of Seurat and the creation of the painting. In studying Seurat's most famous work and his preliminary sketches, Lapine noticed that no one in the painting is looking at anyone else. This led him and Sondheim to speculate on the various reasons these people all came to the same park on a Sunday after¬ noon. The resulting book of the musical consists of dis¬ jointed vignettes revolving around the figures in the painting, and these scenes serve as a backdrop to the central love story and conflict between Seurat and his mistress, Dot. The second act of Sunday in the Park with George leaps forward a century and concerns the artistic crisis of Seurat's great-grandson, also named George, whose crisis is only resolved when he is able to connect with his artistic heritage through the memory of his great- grandmother, Dot. The unusual musical is really an exploration of the creative process itself; it concerns the life of the artist, who seeks to remain true to his own voice in spite of the personal sacrifices involved. After being workshopped at Playwrights Hori¬ zons, Sunday in the Park with George opened on Broadway in 1984, with book and direction by Lapine. Taking the creation of art itself as its subject matter, the musical was praised by a few perceptive critics as an innovative promise of a new direction in the musical theatre. Appreciating Sunday in the Park with George's self-reflexive theatricality and nonlinear structure, The New York Times critic Rich speculated that it is "the first truly modernist work of musical theatre that Broadway has produced." The majority of critics, however, did not appreciate or understand what Sondheim and Lapine were attempt¬ ing. Most agreed that the production was beautiful to look at, but their comments on the show itself ranged from dull, disappointing, confused, and shallow to pre¬ tentious and lacking in human interest. In spite of the negative reviews, the year following the opening of Sun¬ day in the Park with George was a significant one for Lapine both professionally and personally. Lapine was granted a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship for Play- writing in 1984; and, although his first Broadway musi¬ cal lost the 1985 Tony Award to the more traditionally conceived La Cage Aux Folles, Sunday in the Park with George did receive the Drama Desk and Drama Critics' Circle Awards as Best Musical, Drama Desk Awards for Lapine's book and direction, as well as the Pulitzer Prize in drama, and is one of only a handful of musicals to have received that honor. Ironically, when Sunday in the Park with George premiered in London five years later, it won the Olivier Award as Musical of the Year. During 1985 Lapine also had reason to celebrate in his personal life with his marriage to award-winning screenwriter Sarah Kernochan and the birth of their daughter, Phoebe. After Sunday in the Park with George, Lapine contin¬ ued his collaboration with Sondheim by directing a suc¬ cessful revised version of Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along at California's La Jolla Playhouse (1985). The production tried to fix some of the prob¬ lems with the original, whose book spans in reverse order the lives and careers of three friends from their early twenties to middle age. New songs were added to further define the main, and rather unlikable, character of Frank, and the graduation scenes at the beginning and end of the book were eliminated. Perhaps most important, the decision was made to cast the musical with older, experienced actors rather than the young newcomers who had made up the company of the orig¬ inal Broadway production. The revised version, under Lapine's direction, was more successful, and it is this version that is now licensed for production. During the next two years Lapine continued working with Sondheim on a new project, a musical that was to be informed by Lapine's interest in psychol¬ ogy and his new experience and responsibilities as a parent. Into the Woods (1987) premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 1986, and opened on Broad¬ way the following year, with direction by Lapine. Including themes of maturity, parent-child relationships, responsibility, independence, and psychology, Lapine's book for the musical skillfully weaves together well- known fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm with a tale of his own creation and explores what happens after the familiar "Happily Ever After" ending. In the first act of Into the Woods, the Baker and his wife (Lapine's creation) set out to break a witch's spell in order to make their wish of having a child come true. Along the way they encounter Jack, of beanstalk fame, Cinderella and her Prince, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel, all of whom are also intent on making their own wishes come true, and the action cuts back and forth between the wanderings of the characters in the woods as they become involved in each others' stories. By the end of act 1, all seem to have achieved their hearts' desires, despite encountering a witch, a wolf, and giants in the dark woods. During the second act, however, the characters discover that their individual actions in pursuit of their wishes have serious repercus¬ sions. A great danger in the person of a giant who has come down the beanstalk threatens the land. The song "Your Fault" illustrates that each character played a part in allowing this threat to enter their world. Through their trials and journey toward self-knowledge, the char¬ acters eventually learn that all their lives are intercon¬ nected, and only by bonding together into a truly responsible community can they overcome the threat. With the book for Into the Woods, Lapine once again incorporated his interest in psychology, acknowl¬ edging the influence of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and, particularly, Bruno Bettelheim's book, The Uses of Enchantment. Bettelheim analyzes the importance of fairy tales in helping children successfully navigate the steps to becoming independent, responsible adults. The psy¬ chologist notes the pervasive use of seemingly impene¬ trable woods to symbolize the dark and confusing world of the unconscious from which characters must emerge in their struggle toward maturity. Interestingly, the characters Litde Red Riding Hood, Jack, and Cin¬ derella can be viewed as representing three stages in this process: childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Each of these three characters, in turn, grows up during the course of the musical and makes discoveries about themselves and the world around them. Sondheim's score highlights these character changes with their indi¬ vidual songs "I Know Things Now," "Giants in the Sky," and "On the Steps of the Palace." In spite of some mixed reviews and reservations about the complicated nature of the plot, Lapine and Sondheim's latest effort received more-favorable notices than their earlier work. 7me magazine's William A. Henry III admired the creative team's "sophisticated artistic ambition and deep political purpose," while Howard Kissel of the Daily News found the production to be "an evening of total enchantment." In spite of its sober second act and serious themes, the familiar char¬ acters of Into the Woods seem to have made the musical more accessible and acceptable to critics and the public alike; the show ran for two years on Broadway and was videotaped for airing on PBS, under Lapine's direction. In addition, the musical won the 1988 Drama Desk and Drama Critics' Circle Awards, as well as Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Lapine's book. The following year Lapine returned to the New York Shakespeare Festival to direct The Winter's Tale, starring Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Reeve (1989). Emphasizing the mythic and allegorical ele¬ ments in the story, Lapine set his tale in the late eigh¬ teenth century, and once again a painting provided a striking visual metaphor for the production, as a repro¬ duction of Guido Reni's Nessus and Deianeira hung upstage. He also asked his previous collaborator, Finn, and Michael Starobin, the orchestrator of Sunday in the Park with George, to compose original music. The pro¬ duction was praised for its beauty, and Lapine received commendations for his ability as a director, which crit¬ ics noted had developed greatly since his first attempt at Shakespeare. In The New York Times, Rich even noted the recurring themes of dream, subconscious, death, and rebirth that pervaded much of Lapine's previous work. It was during this time that Papp asked Lapine if he was interested in succeeding him as artistic director of the New York Shakespeare Festival. Citing his own ambiva¬ lence and aversion to parties and fund-raising, Lapine turned him down, a decision he later admitted regret¬ ting. Lapine's film-directing debut came in 1989 with Impromptu. The screenplay was written by Lapine's wife and concerns the relationships of Frederic Chopin and George Sand and their circle of friends. Nearly ten years after directing March of the Falset¬ tos at Playwrights Horizons, Lapine returned to collabo¬ rate with Finn on the sequel, Falsettoland (1990). The new work, which continues the story of Marvin, his family, and his AIDS-stricken lover, had originated as a series of readings and then a workshop titled Jason s Bar Mitzvah. In addition to directing with confidence and clarity, Lapine's involvement included connecting songs, suggesting material, strengthening characteriza¬ tions, and again helping to edit and organize the story line in Finn's sung-through musical. With the success of Falsettoland, Lapine and Finn decided to combine the work with its predecessor into a full-length production. Falsettos (1992), as the two united one acts were now called, opened on Broadway at the Golden Theatre under Lapine's direction, to generally favorable response. In recognition of his invaluable contribution to shaping the material in both of the original one-act plays, Lapine was given cocredit as bookwriter, which won him another Tony Award. The year after Falsettos opened on Broadway was extremely busy for Lapine. His second foray into film Cover of the Playbill for the Broadway production of Lapine's 1984play, which won the Pulitzer Prize in drama (from Louis Botto, At This Theater: 100 Years of Broadway Shows, Stories, and Stars, 2002; Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina) PLAYBILL THE 800TH THEATRE V, SUNDAYinthePARK with GEORGE directing was released, and he directed the world pre¬ miere of his play Luck, Pluck, and Virtue (1993) at the La Jolla Playhouse and workshopped Passion, his third col¬ laboration with Sondheim. The movie, Life with Mikey, met with moderate success; it starred Michael J. Fox and concerned a former child star who becomes a chil¬ dren's talent agent. Luck, Pluck, and Virtue was based on Nathaniel West's 1934 novella, A Cool Million. It con¬ cerns the wanderings of a naive young man setting out to make his fortune in an often cruel world. A fan of the novella since his undergraduate days, Lapine had origi¬ nally proposed the idea to musicalize it to Sondheim, who rejected it on the basis of its similarity to the plot of Candide. Lapine was undaunted, however, for he felt an affinity for the Midwestern naivety of Lester Price, the central character, and saw the oudandishly dark nature of the work as a cynical comment on the myth of the American Dream. In her article Isenberg notes that McAnuff, the artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, acknowledged Lapine's penchant for squeezing "lemon juice into the cheeriest situation" and stressing a dark undercurrent "which gives his work edge, bite and depth." While trying to make his way in the cruel world of Lapine's black comedy, Lester is beset by calamity after calamity. He is repeatedly maimed, loses his innocence, along with various body parts, and even¬ tually dies. With his usual attention to the visual appearance of his shows, Lapine once again drew inspi¬ ration from the world of art, particularly that of Johns and Frank Stella. The director and his scene designer, Adrianne Lobel, chose a graphic, abstract setting to act as backdrop to the gruesome cartoon quality of the play's violence. The bright and chipper production ele¬ ments, along with the physical comedy of the piece, invited laughter to break up the plot's relendess cruelty. Two years later Lapine would bring the play to New York, playing downtown in an Off-Broadway theatre. But the more intimate setting did not work well for the piece, whose larger proscenium theatre at La Jolla had kept the audience at a safe distance from the disturbing and grotesque violence. Lapine's reputation and high profile on Broadway also caused much undue attention and media scrutiny to focus on a play that he was, admittedly, still revising. With numerous prestigious shows and awards to his credit, Lapine was invited to become an associate of the Shubert Association in 1993. As such, he would have access to an office at the Shubert Organization in New York where he could work on writing and devel¬ oping new projects, such as his next collaboration with Sondheim, a workshop of the dark and serious musical called Passion (1994). One of few musicals that Sondheim initiated him¬ self, Passion is based on the 1981 Italian film Passixme d'Amore, directed by Ettore Scola, which is, in turn, a cinematic version of the nineteenth-century novel Fosca by I. U. Tarchetti. The plot, set in a remote Italian garri¬ son, concerns the homely and ill Fosca and her obses¬ sive love for Giorgio, a kind and handsome soldier serving under her cousin's command. At first her inap¬ propriate attentions are distressing to Giorgio, who is having a passionate affair with the beautiful, but mar¬ ried, Clara. The sheer force of Fosca's devotion eventu¬ ally wins him over, but her frail health cannot withstand such happiness, and she dies only a few days after Gior- gio's declaration of love. Originally intending to pair Passion as a one-act with a story about competitive body¬ building, Sondheim and Lapine envisioned the resulting double bill to be a meditation on the nature of beauty and obsession. As they worked, however, Passion expanded in its exploration of those themes, and it eventually opened on Broadway as a full-length musical performed without intermission. The dialogue of Lapine's book intermingled so intricately with sung lyr¬ ics and musical underscoring that no separate song tides were listed in the program for the show; in some cases, Sondheim even set Lapine's words to music. Once again, Lapine sought to elucidate his characters' psychology, particularly with Fosca, whose unattractive appearance, along with society's response to it, had caused her feelings of bitterness and worthlessness. Lapine stayed close to the plot of the movie but made one significant change during previews to strengthen the main character. Rather than having Giorgio's mar¬ ried mistress break off the affair, Lapine's book has her give Giorgio the option of waiting until her child has gone off to school, at which point she can leave her hus¬ band. Giorgio is, therefore, able to choose, making his choice of Fosca and her unconditional love more believ¬ able. While Passion received several unfavorable reviews, the production did win the Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Lapine's book. Many critics, however, had harped on the musical's melodramatic, brooding tale of obses¬ sive love and its unlikable heroine. Time magazine's Henry named it the "most depressing show" of Sond- heim's career in a review titled "Miserably Ever After." Fortunately, others, such as Clive Barnes of the New York Post, recognized the artistry and emotional intensity of the writing, naming Passion "the first serious Broad¬ way opera," while in New York Newsday, Linda Winer nominated the work as "the most intelligent and ambi¬ tious new musical of the Broadway season." Lapine would later direct a video version to be televised on PBS's American Playhouse. The stage musical closed after only eight months on Broadway and is to date the most recent collaboration between Lapine and Sondheim, a creative partnership they describe as marked by mutual respect and a minimum of tension. Stephen Banfield, author of Sondheim's Broadway Musicals (1993), empha¬ sizes the important contribution that Lapine made to Sondheim's mature work. Noting that both Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods reveal a deeper level in their portrayal of humanity and "artistic truth," Ban- field concludes that "we should not underestimate Lap¬ ine's proprietorship of this achievement." In 1994 Lapine received an honorary doctor of humane letters from his alma mater, Franklin and Mar¬ shall College, and directed a special ten-year-reunion concert version of Sunday in the Park with George (1994). He also directed a workshop of a musical version of Faust (1994) by composer Randy Newman. The next several years were busy ones for Lapine as both direc¬ tor and writer. He directed New York revivals of his own Twelve Dreams at Lincoln Center Theatre (1995) and Luck, Pluck, and Virtue at the Atlantic Theatre (1995), and also revisited the novel Muscle (1995), by Sam Fussell, which he and Sondheim had dropped as a partner for Passion. Since Sondheim had lost interest in musicalizing the book, Lapine sought out his former collaborator, Finn, and along with lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh they mounted a workshop of the new musical about a man obsessed with bodybuilding. The musical did eventually premiere in Chicago at the non-Equity Pegasus Players in 2001 but has yet to be seen in New York. Lapine feels that the rather bizarre subject matter of Muscle has limited audience appeal, which does not make it a viable project for a full-scale professional pro¬ duction. The Lapine-Finn collaboration continued with the musical A New Brain (1998), a song cycle suggested by Finn's own experience with a life-threatening illness. After the initial workshop Lapine became involved once again in helping to revise and shape the musical. The work eventually received a full production at Lin¬ coln Center Theatre, with choreography and direction by Graciela Daniele. In addition to his Off-Broadway work, Lapine continued to be represented on Broadway as a director with his productions of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett's 1955 play, The Diary of Anne Frank (1997), to which he added more material from Frank's original diary, and David Henry Hwang's Golden Child (1998). The latter play, which had been produced at New York's Public Theatre and the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, California, traces Hwang's family his¬ tory through the character of his grandmother and her own family's struggles with the clash of traditional Chi¬ nese customs and those of the modern West. Lapine also directed a special ten-year anniversary concert of Into the Woods (1997). That musical has proved so popu¬ lar that it was revived on Broadway in 2002, only fif¬ teen years after the original production, once again under Lapine's direction. Although the idea for the revival had already been conceived before 11 Septem¬ ber 2001, the musical's themes of community responsi¬ bility and its exploration of the characters' responses to a great threat took on added significance after the ter¬ rorist attack in New York. As his third film venture, Lapine directed Earthly Pbssessions (1999) for Home Box Office. Taking as its source the novel by Anne Tyler, the film depicts the midlife journey of a woman held hostage by a young bank robber. Based on his successful record with musi¬ cals, Lapine was asked to write the book and direct a stage version of the Disney animated film, The Hunch¬ back of Notre Dame, in Germany (1999). The songs, writ¬ ten by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, had already been composed for the film, so Lapine's challenge was to incorporate successful, pre¬ existing material into his writing. The stage version proved so successful it ran for three years in Berlin. Also in 2000, Lapine's play The Moment When premiered at Playwrights Horizons. The work, which the play¬ wright had been working on for several years, is set in the New York literary world and depicts the meeting of its three main characters at a soiree and follows their relationships through the next fifteen years. The play did not have a lengthy run and was criticized in Bruce Weber's review in The New York Times for being unwieldy in length and subject as well as too talky and static to maintain interest. For the New York Theatre Workshop, Lapine co- conceived and directed Dirty Blonde, starring Claudia Shear as legendary screen actress and sex symbol Mae West. Lapine had been sent a New Yorker article on West's career and proposed the project to Shear, who had impressed him with her play, Blown Sideways through Life. Shear wrote a script, and Lapine helped to shape and structure the material for the play with music. After a successful run downtown beginning 10 January 2000, the comedy on the nature of stardom eventually moved to Broadway in May of 2000, where it ran for ten months and received five Tony Award nominations, including Best Play and Best Director for Lapine's streamlined staging. In the fall of 2002 Lapine returned to Broadway to direct the musical romantic comedy Amour, with a score by Michel Legrand. In spite of a very brief run, the musical received five Tony nomina¬ tions, though Lapine was not cited for his direction. His next play, Fran's Bed, was produced by the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, in the fall of 2003. Lapine directed the play which concerns a middle-aged woman contemplating her life. With adventurous plays and groundbreaking musicals to his credit, as well as multiple prestigious awards, James Lapine has certainly accomplished much for someone who says he never intended to work in the theatre. He approaches theatre from a very visual point of view and was credited by Michael Riedel of Theatre Week as having "a visual sense that is unequaled in the field." Though Lapine's work has often divided critics, his instinctive feel for writing, clarity in directing, and self-effacing manner have made him an effective collab¬ orator with composers, lyricist, actors, and designers alike. He is noted for his advance planning, consistent point of view, and artistic vision of what a production should look like; and actors, in particular, appreciate his laid-back, nonconfrontational directing style. Along with his innovative partners, Sondheim and Finn, he has expanded the notion of what a musical can be and has brought a truly cinematic quality to the stage with his productions. The tremendous variety of his projects can be attributed to his desire to keep doing something different each time, and this makes him difficult to cate¬ gorize as a writer. He is proud of the fact that he has taken on difficult topics and enjoys the challenge of tak¬ ing something hard and making it work. When asked once which of his shows he feels best represents him, he chose Sunday in the Park with George, because it concerns the process of making art: "That came from a strong creative place." For the finale of that musical Sondheim musicalized the words of advice that Lapine wrote for Dot to speak to her great-grandson; she says to the struggling artist: "Move on." Throughout his career Lapine has taken his own advice to heart as he contin¬ ues to forge his own identity in the theatre. References: Stephen Banfield, Sondheim's Broadway Musicals (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993); Louis Botto, At This Theater: 100 Tears of Broadway Shows, Stories, and Stars, edited by Robert Viagas (New York: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books, 2002), p. 97; Joanne Gordon, Art Isn't Easy: The Theater of Stephen Sondheim (New York: Da Capo, 1992); Jeffrey Hogrefe, "On the Park with James Lapine," Architectural Digest (November 1995): 244-249; Stephen Holden, "A Fairy-Tale Musical Grows Up," New York Times (1 November 1987): sec. 2:1+; Michael Riedel, "James Lapine Welcomes You to Falsettoland," Theatre Week (18 May 1992): 18-23; Frank Rich, "A Musical Theatre Breakthrough," New York Times Magazine (21 October 1984): 53-71; Craig Zadan, Sondheim and Co. (New York: Da Capo, 1994). Papers: The Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts has a clippings file on James Lapine. Media: Videos of many of James Lapine's stage productions can be viewed in the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. A listing of Lapine's Broadway productions, along with opening and closing dates, can be found on the Internet Broadway Database (, posted by The League of American Theatres and Producers, 2001.