By Kenneth Jones
30 Aug 2010
Henry Miller's Theatre will make way for the Sondheim, named for the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist who turned 80 in March. (The historic Henry's Miller's façade, which is the only old architectural element left on the new venue, will still have Miller's name etched upon it, for posterity.)
Roundabout Theatre Company operates the playhouse and will host the special event for the Broadway community. Since 1995, Roundabout has been a major producer of Sondheim revivals in New York City.
Participants including Sondheim and his collaborators — actress Patti LuPone and librettist John Weidman — as well as Tom Tuft, the chairman of Roundabout's board of directors, will be in attendance.
According to Roundabout, "In order to facilitate this dedication, a small group of Stephen Sondheim devotees initiated a generous contribution to the renaming dedication of the theatre to support Roundabout's Musical Theatre Fund. The Musical Theatre 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."
The Pee Wee Herman Show will play a limited run in the theatre this fall.
Sondheim had one foot in the Golden Age of the American book musical (with Gypsy and West Side Story) and one in the modern world of the concept musical, which sought to tell stories in fresh ways (Company, Follies, Pacific Overtures). Like his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, he changed the nature of musical theatre forever, influencing subsequent generations of writers.
Sondheim is the winner of an Academy Award, many Tony Awards, multiple Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. Some of his other accolades include 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).
Stephen 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.
Roundabout produced five Tony Award-nominated Sondheim revivals including Company (1995), Follies (2001), Tony Award-winning Assassins (2004), Pacific Overtures (2004), Sunday in the Park with George (2008) and the recent acclaimed production of Sondheim on Sondheim. In 2009 Roundabout presented a one-night only gala concert reading of A Little Night Music at Studio 54 starring Natasha Richardson, Victor Garber and Vanessa Redgrave.
For more information, visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.
The Durst Organization and Bank of America completed construction and restoration of the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on West 43rd Street, off Times Square, in May 2009. The Stephen Sondheim Theatre is the first new Broadway theatre built in over a decade and sets new standards for environmentally sustainable design and construction of performing arts venues. The Stephen Sondheim Theatre sits behind the preserved and restored neo-Georgian façade of the original 1918 theatre.
By 1969, after being used as a Broadway theatre for 51 years the Stephen Sondheim Theatre was abandoned as a legitimate theater. In 1998, Roundabout Theatre Company transformed, reopened and operated the venue as a Broadway theatre with their Tony award winning production of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret. Cabaret ran for nine months, closed because of a construction accident at an adjacent building, re-opened briefly, and transferred to Studio 54 for a five-year run.
Based on Roundabout's track record of revitalizing and managing theatres, an opportunity was presented to Roundabout by The Durst Organization, the New York developer. In September 2009, Roundabout Theatre Company became the curator of the new state-of-the-art, 1,055-seat Broadway theatre, New York's first LEED rated theatre, built as part of the Bank of America at One Bryant Park project.
The Stephen Sondheim Theatre serves the Roundabout's mission "by providing more opportunities for artists as well as audiences," according Roundabout notes. "With the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, Roundabout will create 80-100 new jobs each year for artists and theatre staff through its activities."
The theatre is used for Roundabout productions. "Ensuring year-round occupancy of first-rate Broadway productions," the theatre will also be rented to commercial producers and other not-for-profit theatres.