Sondheim Turns 75 as Celebrations Continue Around the Country

News   Sondheim Turns 75 as Celebrations Continue Around the Country Stephen Joshua Sondheim, the most celebrated Broadway composer of his generation, turns 75 March 22.

Two star-studded events have already saluted this milestone: Wall to Wall Sondheim at Symphony Space on March 19 and Children and Art at the New Amsterdam Theatre March 21.

The former, a 12-hour salute to the award-winning composer-lyricist, featured such highlights as Angela Lansbury and George Hearn re-creating their Sweeney Todd show-stopper "A Little Priest"; Patti LuPone belting out the Company anthem "Being Alive"; Liz Callaway singing "What More Do I Need?"; and recent Assassins star Neil Patrick Harris interpreting Sunday in the Park with George's "Finishing the Hat."

The Children and Art evening — presented by William Jefferson Clinton and Barbra Streisand — benefited Young Playwrights Inc., an organization founded by Stephen Sondheim in 1981, and boasted the talents of dozens of Broadway stars, including Tony Award winners Betty Buckley, Barbara Cook, Harvey Fierstein, Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and B.D. Wong, to name but a few.

The Sondheimfest will continue with an all-star staging of Passion, part of Lincoln Center's acclaimed American Songbook series. The semi-staged concert of the Tony Award-winning musical will star Patti LuPone (Fosca), Audra McDonald (Clara) and Michael Cerveris (Giorgio). The three actors, who starred in the Sondheim-James Lapine musical at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, will re-create their performances for Lincoln Center audiences. The threesome, directed by Lonny Price, will be backed by the 35 piece American Theater Orchestra under the direction of Paul Gemignani. Passion will be presented at the Rose Theatre March 30-April 1; the March 31 performance will also be broadcast live on PBS stations around the country, part of the famed "Live from Lincoln Center" series.

The Roundabout Theatre Company, which presented the recent revivals of Sondheim's Assassins and Pacific Overtures, will honor the composer at its annual spring gala. Sondheim will be presented with The Jason Robards Award for Excellence in Theatre — named for the stage and screen actor who served on Roundabout's Board of Directors — at the April 11 gala at Pier Sixty at the Chelsea Piers. Directed by Scott Ellis, the all-star tribute is scheduled to include performances by Christine Baranski, Polly Bergen, Harolyn Blackwell, Barbara Cook, Veanne Cox, Alan Cumming, Boyd Gaines, Victor Garber, Judith Ivey, Judy Kuhn, Marin Mazzie, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy and Bernadette Peters. Outside New York, several Sondheim evenings are also planned. The Boston Pops 2005 season will offer A Tribute to Stephen Sondheim June 16, 17 and 18. Keith Lockhart — celebrating his 10th anniversary with the Pops — will conduct the orchestra, and an all-star cast featuring Faith Prince, Lisa Vroman and members of the Tanglewood Music Center will interpret songs by the venerable composer. Chicago's Ravinia Festival will continue its Sondheim 75 series, the five-year salute to the works of Sondheim, which has already included concert presentations of Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Passion and Sunday in the Park with George. The series culminates this August with the Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical Anyone Can Whistle. Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald and Michael Cerveris — seen at the Ravinia in the aforementioned Passion mounting — will reunite Aug. 26-27 for the staging of Whistle.

Those who are unable to make it to the live events can enjoy their Sondheim on disc. Two record labels will boast archival material of songs by the 75 year-old composer. A new Sony BMG Broadway Masterworks series will be launched May 17, offering fans of Sondheim refreshed re-releases of original cast albums of Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park With George.
The discs will include special added material of Sondheim himself singing his work at performances of industry readings and presentations. And, PS Classics Inc., the nonprofit organization dedicated to the heritage of American musical theatre, will release a series of CDs entitled "Sondheim Sings." Utilizing the demos held in Sondheim's private collection, the series will consist of the composer-lyricist singing and playing songs he's written from 1946 to the present. The first volume, due for release May 10, will cover the years 1962 to 1972 and include material from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Company, Follies and A Little Night Music, all digitally remastered.

Both branches of the Museum of Television & Radio — in Manhattan at 25 West 52nd Street and in Los Angeles at 465 North Beverly Drive — are currently offering a four-month retrospective of the television and film works and appearances of Sondheim. "Early Days," a 130-minute program featuring segments on Saturday Night and "Evening Primrose," is currently on view through March 27. For details about the Museum's Sondheim celebration, which runs through July 3, visit Click Here.

Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim has written a plethora of critically acclaimed, award-winning musicals, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Passion. He also contributed lyrics to West Side Story and Gypsy, and his newest musical, Bounce, played Chicago and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. His revised productions of The Frogs and Pacific Overtures were on Broadway stages earlier this season, and the 2004 staging of Assassins won five Tonys, including one for Best Revival of a Musical. Sondheim was also celebrated at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in summer 2002 with all-star stagings of six of his musicals — Company, Sweeney, Merrily, Night Music, Sunday and Passion.