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A Must for Fans of Musicals

Commentary offers fresh insight into the making of 'Sunday in the Park.'

April 15, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DVDs are not only for film buffs. Recent releases include a Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical and several rock videos.

New from Image Entertainment is the special edition of the 1984 Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, "Sunday in the Park With George" ($30), which was originally taped in 1986 for PBS' venerable "American Playhouse" series.

Though it lost the Tony for best musical in '84 to Jerry Herman's "La Cage aux Folles," this brilliant, sophisticated, demanding work is one of the handful of musicals to have won a Pulitzer.

Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters give amazing performances in this musical loosely inspired both by George Seurat's painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" and by Seurat's troubled life. Charles Kimbrough of "Murphy Brown" and Brent Spiner of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" are in the great supporting cast. The songs include a glorious solo by Patinkin, "Finishing the Hat."

Image's edition features audio commentary from Sondheim, Lapine, Patinkin and Peters, which was recorded last year as the group watched the musical without the audio. Listening to them reminisce is like eavesdropping on a group of good friends who have gathered to gab about old times. Unfortunately, Lapine and Sondheim must have been sitting too far away from the microphone, because sometimes their comments are inaudible.

Nevertheless, the commentary offers a lot of insight into the creation of this musical, as well as what it was like for Patinkin and Peters to do such a strenuously vocal and emotional show. It's a must for all serious musical theater fans.

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If Broadway doesn't light your fire, Universal's "The Doors Collector's Edition"($35) might. The tape offers six hours of material on the seminal '60s rock group that was led by charismatic Jim Morrison. The disc features the wide-screen versions of the three Doors performance pieces: "Dance on Fire"; "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" and "The Soft Parade." The edition is also jammed with such extras as keyboardist Ray Manzarek's cut of his music video of "L.A. Woman"; a newly found print of Manzarek's controversial "Unknown Soldier" video; two of Manzarek's UCLA student films--one of which features a pre-Doors Morrison in a party sequence; clips of drummer John Densmore's one-man show about his life as a Door; production stills and collectibles. Manzarek, Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger also are featured on a separate audio track and are great guides back to the '60s and the world of Morrison.

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Image Entertainment also has two new pop concerts on DVD: "Janet Jackson: The Velvet Rope Tour" ($25), which was originally seen live in the fall on HBO; and "Joni Mitchell: Painting With Words & Music" ($25), a pleasant 1998 concert that was taped in front of an intimate audience at the Warner Bros. lot. Both discs include a videography and filmography.

For opera fans, there's Franco Zeffirelli's beautiful 1982 filmed version of Verdi's tragic opera "La Traviata" ($25), starring Teresa Stratas and Placido Domingo. The edition includes production notes, cast bios and film highlights.

Also New: "Welcome to My Nightmare" (Rhino, $20)--the classic 1975 Alice Cooper concert movie features an audio commentary track by Cooper, an interview with the veteran rocker and a memorabilia-and-trivia game.

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