5 December 2013 7:00 AM, PST | Variety - TV News | See recent Variety - TV News news »

Affixed with an unnecessary gimmick, “Six by Sondheim” is a loving ode to the composer by director James Lapine — part biography, part detailed examination of the roots of Sondheim’s talent and work. Fascinating as that latter part is, it’s slightly burdened by the decision to stage three songs specifically for the film, which features some top-flight performers — Darren Criss, America Ferrera, Audra McDonald, etc. — but isn’t really needed given the rich array of footage incorporated, from early “West Side Story” to Dean Jones belting out “Being Alive” in rehearsal. Ultimately, it’s best when the man and his songs speak for themselves.

Lapine draws on a treasure trove of Sondheim interviews so deftly woven together (credit Miky Wolf’s editing) that the composer of such shows as “Company,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Sunday in the Park With George” is occasionally found beginning a story in one Broadway venue and finishing it in another. »

- Brian Lowry

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