Sondheim at Carnegie Hall

PlayBlog   Sondheim at Carnegie Hall
Stephen Sondheim took a surprise bow at the Nov. 19 New York Pops concert at Carnegie Hall. The evening's encore, "Old Friends," was completed with the introduction of Sondheim, who entered from the wings to a standing ovation. He quieted the audience and then spoke the words "…damn few!," ending the fan-favorite number from Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along.

Stephen Sondheim 80th Birthday Celebration, as it was called, was Carnegie Hall's only concert of Sondheim music in 2010, the year that the Tony Award-winning composer-lyricist became an octogenarian (the milestone was on March 22, in case you haven't been reading Playbill or any other arts publication these past eight months). Pops music director Steven Reineke conducted an eclectic evening of Sondheim favorites with a Broadway foursome singing out, Louise: Kate Baldwin, Alexander Gemignani, Aaron Lazar and Christiane Noll. All are special, but they were eclipsed by a solo turn by smoky cabaret star Marilyn Maye (80-something herself), who sang the showbiz anthem "I'm Still Here," a song she has earned. She returned for a second bow after the crowd could not be silenced.

Memorable in the mix: Baldwin's moving "I Remember," edgy "Another Hundred People" and articulate "Children Will Listen"; Noll's wildly unself-conscious "Getting Married Today" (in full breakdown mode, falling to the stage floor) and tender "Send in the Clowns"; Lazar's knockout "Being Alive" (not just a voice but a character was present), and his "Agony" duet with Gemignani; and the inclusion of Essential Voices USA, adding church-choir heft to "Not Getting Married" and grandeur to both "A Weekend in the Country" and Jason Robert Brown's rapturous arrangement of "Sunday" for the finale. Judith Clurman is Essential Voices USA's music director and conductor.

And, yes, that was the peerless Broadway pianist and music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell — acclaimed for her recent Broadway Company orchestrations — at the Steinway at Carnegie Hall.

Check out's photo coverage of the Sondheim Carnegie Hall concert here.

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