Magazine article The Sondheim Review

It's a City of Sondheim

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

It's a City of Sondheim

Article excerpt

City Center offers a tribute with music from many Sondheim shows

The life and work of Stephen Sondheim have been and will continue to be celebrated throughout the country and the world during his 80th birthday year. But it's only natural that the major festivities have taken place in New York, the city Sondheim calls home and the one where he has created musical theatre art for more than a half-century, on and off Broadway.

Among the tribute concerts in New York City, one of the most exciting took place on April 26, 2010, at City Center. The evening was directed by John Doyle, known for his actor/musician stagings of Company and Sweeney Todd. Doyle co-hosted the program with Mia Farrow, an old friend of Sondheim, whom she acknowledged as godfather to one of her children.

City Center is home to the Encores! series, which set forth an acclaimed staged concert version of Anyone Can Whistle earlier in April.

The Encores! orchestra, led by Rob Berman, was an essential part of the gala. Its 29 musicians gloriously accompanied singing actors who, in many cases, have headlined Sondheim revivals that offered paltry instrumental accompaniment for conceptual or economic reasons. The evening's biggest show-stopper came when Raúl Esparza passionately sang "Being Alive" from Company as the orchestra reveled in Jonathan Tunick's gorgeous orchestrations. (The audience oohed and gasped at Doyle's remark that the original Company had opened on Broadway 40 years ago that very night.)

Among the many other highlights: Two numbers from Into the Woods were performed by members of that show's original cast, Joanna Gleason ("Moments in the Woods") and the marvelous quartet of Kim Crosby, Chip Zien, Danielle Ferland and Ben Wright ("No One Is Alone"). Sutton Foster, who was Fay Apple in the recent Encores! presentation of Anyone Can Whistle, reprised the title song from that show. Nathan Lane, on a night off from The Addams Family, dragged a tuba and cello onstage as if he were about to play them in a Doyle-directed production of a Sondheim musical. Then he threw off the instruments and launched into a hilarious medley of "Invocation and Instructions to the Audience" (from The Frogs) and "Love Is in the Air" (cut from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), with snippets of "Comedy Tonight" (Forum), "Tonight" (West Side Story) and "The Ladies Who Lunch" (Company) with "I'm Still Here" (Follies) thrown in for good measure. …

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