[caption id="attachment_1903" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Stephen Sondheim (center) with (l-r) James Lapine and John Weidman upon hearing the news. (photo by Joseph Marzullo)"][/caption]
Afterwards, the Roundabout threw Sondheim a birthday party fit for a king. Bernadette Peters (sporting straight hair!) kicked off the gala singing a song she only described as one that “was cut from one of Steve’s shows.” It was of course, lovely, and made me wonder what other masterpieces have been left on the cutting room floor? Oh, to be that floor.
Lonny Price came next reporting that he was there as a stand-in for Len Cariou, who was holed up on the set of “Damages.” Reminiscing about his first Sondheim show as a kid, Price joked, “It was Company…a great show for kids!” He then kicked off a round robin of accomplished composers (including Andrew Lippa, Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Duncan Sheik, Jeanine Tesori, David Lindsay-Abaire, Michael John LaChiusa, Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez) who were all too happy to sing for their supper...literally…by performing new songs they had written just for the occasion.
Price wasn’t the only one to get sentimental about the first time he was exposed to Sondheim’s genius. Duncan Sheik remembered going to see Sweeney Todd at the age of ten and becoming enthralled by Sondheim’s music. “I remember asking my dad what the best song ever written was. And, after a long pause, he said ‘Send in the Clowns.’ Now he only listens to country music, so that didn’t end well. But it started at the right time for me.”
Shrek composers Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire recognized the pressure they felt by having to perform in front of their idol. “Who decided this was a good idea?” Lindsay-Abaire asked as Tesori played the piano. “This is like saying to a whole bunch of amateurs, ‘Hey, it’s Michael Jordan’s birthday. Why don’t you come up here and dribble for him.’” Touché.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who recently collaborated with Sondheim to write Spanish lyrics for the newest revival of West Side Story, performed his own version of “Barcelona” from Company alongside Rita Moreno. The song went a little something like this:
Moreno: “We have to perform for Sondheim”
Miranda: “But not in Spanish.”
Moreno: “No, no, no, no. Not in Spanish.”
Joanna Gleason capped off the night thanking Sondheim for not only his contributions to music, but also for bringing new talent to the stage. “You’ve created a highly functioning tribe in the theatre,” she said to applause. “You put us all at the top of our games, Steve.”
Other friends of Sondheim (below) hand-wrote some birthday cards that appeared in the program.
“Happy Birthday, and remember 80 is the new…oh, screw it, you’re old.” Nathan Lane
“We clowns salute you.” Bill Irwin
“You’ll always be a kid, kiddo!” Hal Prince
“We get to share birthdays again and I wish you the happiest ever. I, however, plan to stop this year. Enough is enough.” Polly Bergen
“Welcome to the 80s.” Angela Lansbury
“You will dear Stephen forever in our (aren’t you glad I’m not a lyricist!) hearts live!” Blythe Danner
“Sooner or later, lets get back in business.” Warren Beatty
“Happy birthday to an old friend from his long time admirer.” John Kander