Lord Knows, At Least I Was There

In 1994 when James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s Passion was being produced on Broadway, Sondheim, along with star Donna Murphy and pianist Paul Ford, appeared on Larry King’s talk show to promote the musical.

How Larry King lasted so long as a host is a subject for another day, but he didn’t ask either Sondheim or Murphy any particularly probing or interesting questions on that occasion. The highlight was Murphy singing the letter scene, accompanied by Paul Ford, from when she confronts Giorgio in his bedroom.

As it happened, a few days later a few of us traveled to NYC to see the show. I had seen a preview performance a few weeks earlier, so I pretty much knew what to expect, but for Simone, Chris, Ed, and Bob it would be their introduction to the show. The cast recording had not yet been released. All they had heard were the recordings I had made of Murphy’s song, and of an earlier appearance of Jere Shea and Marin Mazzie on the Today Show singing the opening number. At this point, the songs did not even have names; the intention of the creators was to give the show a sung-through feeling, since those kinds of shows seemed to be becoming popular.

Our seats were in the second row at the left side of the orchestra, and since we arrived early, I went to take a look at the orchestra and found myself face to face with Paul Ford.

We were perhaps three feet from each other, and he looked up just as I got there. I let out almost an involuntary:

“You’re Paul Ford!” 

“And you are…?” he replied.

“I saw you on Larry King.” 

“That was a weird experience.” 

“Well, Larry King is pretty weird.” 

He seemed to agree and went back to warming up on his piano, and I went back to my seat.

I was so taken by surprise that I hadn’t thought to ask any probing or interesting questions about Sondheim or the rehearsals for the show.

Lord Knows At Least I Was TherePaul Ford now has a book out called Lord Knows, At Least I Was There.

From the blurb: 

When the Atlanta-born Paul Ford first fell in love with the American musical theatre at the age of five, after seeing the movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, he never imagined that his future skills as a “piano thumper” would lead him to a career on Broadway playing rehearsals or in the “pit” for such classic Stephen Sondheim musicals as Sunday in the Park with George, Follies in Concert, Into the Woods, Assassins (both off-Broadway and the Broadway revival), Passion, the 2005 production of Pacific Overtures, Wiseguys, Stephen Sondheim at Carnegie Hall, and numerous concerts, birthday tributes, and television spectaculars. In two of his Tony award acceptance speeches, Sondheim publicly declared Paul Ford the “indefatigable master of the musical theatre” and “the world’s most tireless rehearsal pianist and a walking memory bank of every song that has ever been written for any musical on any continent.”
For more than 25 years, Paul Ford was also Mandy Patinkin’s exclusive accompanist and musical collaborator on a series of recordings and live concerts that took the duo from Broadway to London to Australia and beyond. Patinkin offers a heartfelt tribute to his former associate in the book’s Foreword.


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