Friends and fans of composer Stephen Sondheim gathered at the 42West cabaret in New York to celebrate his 85th birthday March 22. Though Sondheim himself did not appear, many of his collaborators did, to sing songs, tell stories and drink Dom Perignon champagne, which was marked down for the occasion from $2,000 to a mere $985 a bottle. Less pricy cocktails were available as well.
Though the décor was Into the Woods-themed, and the guest performers included members of the original 1987 Broadway cast and the 2014 film version of that musical, Sondheim songs from many shows and periods were sung.
Musical director Michael Moritz opened the evening with a piano medley showcasing some of Sondheim’s most famous melodies, including "Not While I’m Around" and "Children Will Listen."
Original Into the Woods Baker (and revival cast Mysterious Man) Chip Zien sang both parts of the duet “No More,” and reminisced about working on the show.
He said "No More" wasn’t in the show when he joined the cast. Sondheim brought in the sheet music for the song and sang it to him and Tom Aldredge, along with music director Paul Gemignani. Aldredge was so moved he began crying, and soon Zien and Gemignani joined in. Zien laughed as he recalled working with co-star Joanna Gleason (The Baker’s Wife), saying they fought all the time, “like a real marriage.”
After the third of three performances of Into the Woods taped for PBS, Zien said he came back to his dressing room to find the lights were off. He flicked them on and there was Sondheim, sitting there weeping. He told Zien, "'You know, I don’t think it will ever be that good again.'"
Lilla Crawford, who played Little Red Riding Hood in the movie of Into the Woods, recreated her performance of “I Know Things Now.”
At the conclusion of the song, Billy Magnussen, who played one of the princes in the film of Into the Woods, came on stage and gave high-fives to Sieber and Iglehart. Magnussen didn’t sing but recounted his experience recording "Agony" with Chris Pine, then turned around to see Sondheim asleep in the sound booth. He raised a glass to Sondheim, honoring him as “a really cool motherf**er.”