In February 1973 Broadway audiences first heard the Stephen Sondheim ballad "Send in the Clowns," when Glynis Johns created the role of Desiree Armfeldt in the Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical A Little Night Music, which won 1973 Tony Awards for Johns, Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Patricia Elliott), and Best Costume Design. Both Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins subsequently recorded "Send in the Clowns," making the song what is still, perhaps, Sondheim's best-known tune.
Elizabeth Taylor played Desiree in the 1977 film version of A Little Night Music, while the 2009 Broadway revival featured Catherine Zeta-Jones as the actress, with Zeta-Jones also winning a Tony for her performance. The film star was subsequently succeeded by three-time Tony recipient Bernadette Peters, who also moved audiences deeply with her version of "Send in the Clowns." The Sondheim classic has also been performed by some of the top artists in and out of the theatre, including Shirley Bassey, Carol Burnett, Cher, Judi Dench (who starred in the London production of A Little Night Music), and Sarah Vaughan. Enjoy all of these wonderful interpretations— and more—below. (Read the complete obituary for Mr. Sondheim, who passed away November 26, 2021, here. The late composer-lyricist would have celebrated his 92nd birthday March 22.)
Boy George with Diana Rouvas
Sally Ann Howes
Bernadette Peters, accompanied by Mr. Sondheim