Light the Lights! Stephen Sondheim Gets Broadway Theatre in His Name

News   Light the Lights! Stephen Sondheim Gets Broadway Theatre in His Name
 
Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim changed the landscape of the American musical, so it's only fitting that his name will alter Broadway itself with the renaming of a theatre. The Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street will become The Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Stephen Sondheim
Stephen Sondheim

On behalf of Roundabout Theatre Company, Sondheim collaborators James Lapine and John Weidman announced the dedication of the Sondheim Theatre from the stage of Studio 54 at approximately 9:30 PM March 22, at the curtain call of a performance of the new musical Sondheim on Sondheim. The show (and its curtain ceremony) was half of a two-part gala benefit evening supporting the not-for-profit Roundabout and celebrating composer-lyricist Sondheim's 80th birthday (on the very birthdate, March 22).

The physical renaming of the Henry Miller's Theatre, which is operated by Roundabout, will happen after the limited engagement of All About Me ends at the Henry Miller's, a Roundabout spokesman told Playbill.com. All About Me is scheduled through July 18.

A small group of Stephen Sondheim devotees "initiated a generous contribution to the renaming dedication of the theatre to support Roundabout’s Musical Production Fund," according to the Roundabout, which also operates Broadway's Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre. At the donors' request, the amount of the contribution to the Musical Production Fund will not be disclosed.

Roundabout artistic director Todd Haimes said in a statement, "Stephen Sondheim is, quite simply, an artistic genius. Perhaps no writer of musical theatre has had a greater influence on his chosen art form. We are so proud that Roundabout has had the privilege of being a theatrical home to some of Steve's greatest works, including Company, Follies, Assassins, Pacific Overtures, Sunday in the Park with George and the concert performance of A Little Night Music. It's thrilling to see one of the greatest artists of our time be able to join the other legendary theatre artists who have had Broadway theatres named after them, like Ethel Barrymore, David Belasco, Edwin Booth, George Broadhurst, George Gershwin, Alfred Lunt & Lynn Fontanne, Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Eugene O'Neill, Neil Simon and August Wilson. In so many ways, Steve's work has already made him a part of their illustrious tradition, so it is only fitting that we can now pay proper tribute to a composer and lyricist of extraordinary stature, Stephen Sondheim."

Weidman said in a statement, "Steve Sondheim has been, without question, the pre-eminent artist working in the musical theatre for the last 50 years. The appropriateness of naming a theatre after him is self-evident. The hope in naming a theatre after him is that it will become a home for artists whose work aspires to the heady level of daring, honesty and rigor which has always characterized Steve's. It’s been my experience that billing has never mattered much to Steve, but it's nice to know there is now one Broadway house where his name will always appear above the title." The Durst Organization and Bank of America completed construction and restoration of the Henry Miller's Theatre on West 43rd Street, just off Times Square, in May 2009. Henry Miller’s Theatre is the first new Broadway theatre built in over a decade; all that remains is the original historic façade. Bye Bye Birdie christened the new theatre in fall 2009.

A protégé of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who had himself deepened the American musical by adding controversial subjects, a social conscience and psychological depth to scripts and lyrics, Sondheim is the winner of Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, plus an Academy Award, multiple Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors (1993), the National Medal of Arts (1996), the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for Music (2006) and a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (2008).

Sondheim, Roundabout notes, is known for his "musical sophistication, which combines intricate vocal lines and inventive harmonies with intelligent lyrics and subject matter."

Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for Road Show (2008), Passion (1994), Assassins (1991), Into the Woods (1987), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sweeney Todd (1979), Pacific Overtures (1976), The Frogs (1974), A Little Night Music (1973), Follies (1971; revised in London, 1987), Company (1970), Anyone Can Whistle (1964) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), as well as the lyrics for West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965) and additional lyrics for Candide (1973). Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), Marry Me a Little (1981), You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983) and Putting It Together (1993/99) are anthologies of his work, as is the new musical Sondheim on Sondheim. He composed the film scores of "Stavisky" (1974) and "Reds" (1981) and songs for "Dick Tracy" (Academy Award, 1990). He also wrote songs for the television production "Evening Primrose" (1966), co-authored, with Anthony Perkins, the film "The Last of Sheila" (1973) and, with George Furth, the play Getting Away with Murder (1996), and provided incidental music for the plays The Girls of Summer (1956), Invitation to a March (1961) and Twigs (1971). He won Tony Awards for Best Score for a Musical for Passion, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Follies and Company. All of these shows won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, as did Pacific Overtures and Sunday in the Park with George, the latter also receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Saturday Night (1954), his first professional musical, finally had its New York premiere in 1999 at Second Stage Theatre.

The Roundabout Musical Production Fund was established in 2003 by Roundabout's board of directors "to sustain this important art form and insure that Roundabout can continue its mission to produce musical revivals as well as developing new musicals by both established and emerging composers."

For more information about Sondheim on Sondheim, conceived and directed by James Lapine, or programs of Roundabout Theatre Company, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.

Artist's rendering of the planned Stephen Sondheim Theatre marquee.
Artist's rendering of the planned Stephen Sondheim Theatre marquee.
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