Sondheim on Sondheim Review

ATYP’s reviewing program was created to give young people a platform to voice their opinions and experiences while developing skills in critical reflection. The views expressed are those of the writer and do not reflect the views of ATYP or its staff.

Sondheim on Sondheim, 2024. Photo by Another Media Co.


Stephen Sondheim is arguably one of the most well regarded and revered American musical theatre composers of the 20th century, second only to Rodgers and Hammerstein. Sondheim on Sondheim is an unabashed, playful, boisterous and humorous anthology of his life and work. 

UNSW’s Musical Theatre Society imbues their production with such honesty, openness and passion that audiences can’t help but go along for the ride. They are whisked away through a collection of Sondheim’s most famous works, and his most epic fails, stitched together with stories from his life. 

Sondheim on Sondheim, 2024. Photo by Another Media Co.

The ‘Sondheim on Wheels’, as director Jack Talty calls it, a television atop a moveable cabinet so the company could wheel him around the stage, acts as the narrator of the show – the retrospective Sondheim on the performative Sondheim. As someone who knew very little of who Steven Sondheim was before sitting down for this show, I was incredibly grateful for this theatrical device as it gives audiences an entry point into the magical world of Sondheim’s mind and provides a unique insight into the thought process of a man as he ages.

Jack Talty’s love and admiration for Sondheim is undeniable in their impeccable direction, meticulously crafting the staging, and brisk pacing of the show. Each song is grand in scale whilst also serving a purpose for the overall narrative about self-portraiture, authorship, and artistry that is pondered, discussed, appreciated and sometimes even upstaged!

Sondheim on Sondheim, 2024. Photo by Another Media Co.

This show truly is an ensemble piece. Every actor is at the top of their game. These performers are the cream of the crop of Sydney-based university musical theatre students. From Aiden Carter and Julia Mitnovetski’s romantically tense You Could Drive a Person Crazy, to Brandon Linsay’s beautiful rendition of Epiphany, to Matthew de Meyrick’s melancholic yet hopeful Is This What You Call Love?, to Daniel Mark Wakeford’s show stopping Franklin Shepard, Inc

As well as Isabella Schroder’s powerful Being Alive, to Helen Jordan’s elegant In Buddy’s Eyes, to Payton Green’s determined resolve in Do I Hear A Waltz?, to Bronwyn Dyer’s hilariously camp Smile, Girls, to Isabelle Venice’s hauntingly magnificent Send In The Clowns. Special mentions to Musical Director Kristian Babian and the phenomenal on stage band who play every song with the ferociousness as if it is the Act 1 finale! 

To quote the director “Sondheim’s songs are full of psychological processes […] emotional intensity, colours of feeling and heartfelt paradoxes.” MTS’ production of Sondheim on Sondheim is an energetic, engaging and enthusiastic retrospective on one of the most influential musical theatre composers in recent history, where every team member on and off stage oozes youth and professionalism. It truly is university theatre at its best. 

This hilarious and heartwarming Story of Sondheim shows audiences how creatives “change their shape”, as Sondheim says, throughout their career and leaves them with a profound message on the power of collaboration, stories and storytelling.


— Ben