How Do You Top The Beatles? For Abramorama, It’s With Sondheim – New York Film Festival

Atlas Media

Indie distributor Abramorama just launched Ron Howard’s Beatles doc The Beatles: Eight Days A Week — The Touring Years. Heading into the New York Film Fest season, the company has acquired distribution rights to Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened, the Scott Rudin and Eli Bush exec produced documentary about a legendary flop and one of Broadway’s most beloved musical fiascos, Merrily We Roll Along. The film is produced by Atlas Media Corp. with Allright Productions and helmed by original Merrily cast member Lonny Price, who produced with Bruce David Klein, Kitt Lavoie and Ted Schillinger.

From "Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened"
From “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” Atlas Media

Stephen Sondheim’s score and George Furth’s book were based on the 1934 George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart play tracing the intimate relationship of three friends from their bitter dissolution back in time to their sky’s-the-limit youth of high hopes and artistic ambition. Harold Prince, coming to the end of a decade-long collaboration as director with Sondheim that began with Company (also written with Furth), cast a company of youngsters for the show. Following a famously roller-coasterish rehearsal and preview period, the show opened on November  16, 1981 and shuttered after 16 performances in the wake of blistering reviews.

Nevertheless, the score has gone well beyond cult status as among Sondheim’s most beautiful and accessible. The show also has continued to challenge other directors, though none has made the show work, most likely because the gimmick of moving back in time plays more as an intellectual conceit than a dramatically fulfilling idea.

Best Worst mixes archival footage of the rehearsals with cast interviews and overview from Sondheim and Prince (Furth died in 2008). Among the show’s stars-in-the-making were Jason Alexander, Jim Walton, Ann Morrison and Tonya Pinkins, along with Price.

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened will have its world premiere at the 54th New York Film Festival on October 9 at Alice Tully Hall. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Sondheim, Price and special guests to be announced. The NYFF will also screen the film on October 10 at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

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