Back in June 2019, Jason Robert Brown celebrated his 50th SubCulture residency concert in unparalleled fashion: by inviting Stephen Sondheim to join him as his special guest. The night was a celebration of Brown and Sondheim’s catalogs and featured Tony Award winner Katrina Lenk, as well as guests Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rob McClure, Joshua Henry, and Shoshana Bean.
But there was no more special moment than Lenk singing “Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd as both Brown and Sondheim accompanied her, the latter tenderly mouthing along to his own words.
On March 22, 2020, the day that marks Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday, executive producer and owner of SubCulture Marc Kaplan and Brown have released the song, the first video footage from the concert made public, as well as this joint statement:
“The Jason Robert Brown Artist-In-Residence concerts began at SubCulture on December 6, 2014. From the very start, it was clear that we were doing something transcendent for everyone involved — the artists, the venue and its team, and the passionately loyal audience, some of whom have become true friends to us throughout the 57 concerts we've produced. Our 58th concert was supposed to be held March 16, but, as John Lennon once said, a global pandemic is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. We canceled the concert and we don’t know when we’ll get to resume the residency.
“So now what? Like everyone else, we don't have clear answers. But what we DO know is that we want to find a way to continue doing what we do best — connecting people through the joy of music. That's ultimately what this residency has always been about, and we feel an obligation to keep doing that, not just for our audiences but for ourselves as well. Unfortunately, we can't just get the band together and put on a show at SubCulture. However, we have archival recordings of every residency concert, and we're looking into ways to share those performances with our audience. This is the beginning.”
“For our first release, we chose to honor the legendary Stephen Sondheim on his 90th birthday. Steve (he told us to call him ‘Steve’) was the special guest for our 50th performance, which was a benefit concert at Town Hall in support of Brady — United Against Gun Violence. It was an evening that no one in that room will ever forget, and this performance of "Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd, with the glorious Katrina Lenk giving a stunning vocal performance, will show you why.
“As Katrina came offstage after this number, Rob McClure pointed to the spot where she had been standing, center stage between two grand pianos played by JRB and Stephen Sondheim, and he said to her, ‘Do you realize that more people have been on the moon than have been where you just stood?’
“Tonight, on what should have been the Broadway opening of the new revival of Company starring Katrina, we wanted to celebrate her and Steve, and give us all a chance to feel what it was like to be exactly in that spot. Since we’re all going to be stuck inside for a while, here’s a way to pass three minutes and thirty-nine seconds, full of joy and love – and hope. Wash your hands, drink lots of fluids, and stay tuned as we continue to look for ways to connect through the music we love most. Wait till you see what's next.”
The Town Hall event was directed by Daisy Prince complete with sound design by Jon Weston and lighting design by Zach Pizza. This video recording features mixing and mastering by Jeffrey Lesser, video by director of photography Alan Smith, video editing by Jodi Binstock.