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One reason any singing actor with a modicum of talent can’t go wrong interpreting the songs of Stephen Sondheim is that they make whoever sings them sound like a genius and a sage. In a fusion of sensibilities, the composer’s complicated thoughts become the singer’s, so that the performer’s best possible self — a more intuitive, smarter self (Mr. Sondheim doesn’t do stupid) — comes to the fore.
That’s why an all-Sondheim program like Elaine Stritch’s new show, “Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim ... One Song at a Time,” at the Café Carlyle is so touching. The selections — a baker’s dozen — constitute a handpicked, personal anthology of the composer’s observations on life, time, relationships and show business, expressed by supremely articulate stage characters, whose thoughts are indelibly stamped with Ms. Stritch’s outsize personality.