The Sondheim Celebration — which offered star-studded stagings of Sweeney Todd, Company, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, A Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along — began May 10 with Sweeney, Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's dark tale about a man who returns to London to avenge the death of his wife. The tale of the “demon barber of Fleet Street” ran in repertory with Company and Sunday in the Park with George and cast Brian Stokes Mitchell — of Ragtime and Kiss Me, Kate fame — as the knife-wielding Sweeney Todd and Christine Baranski — the Tony winning star of both The Real Thing and Rumors — as the meat-pie-making Mrs. Lovett. The remainder of the cast comprised Hugh Panaro (Anthony Hope), Mary Beth Peil (Beggar Woman), Walter Charles (Judge Turpin), Ray Friedeck (The Beadle), Celia Keenan Bolger (Johanna), Mark Price (Tobias Ragg), Kevin Ligon (Pirelli) and Cupo (Jonas Fogg).
Company, Sondheim's tale of a single man (Bobby) and his friendships with five married couples, was the second offering, beginning previews on May 17. The Sondheim-George Furth musical cast former Sunset Boulevard and Putting It Together star John Barrowman as the confused bachelor and award-winning actress Lynn Redgrave as the boozy, jaded Joanne, whose second act show-stopper, "The Ladies Who Lunch," became Elaine Stritch's signature tune. The remainder of the cast featured Christy Baron (Susan), Matt Bogart (Paul), Keira Naughton (Sarah), Alice Ripley (Amy), Emily Skinner (Jenny), Marcy Harriell (Marta), Elizabeth Zins (Katherine), Jerry Lanning (Larry), David Pittu (Harry), Kim Director (April), Marc Vietor (David) and Dan Cooney (Peter).
Sunday in the Park with George, which completed the first trio of Sondheim musicals offered at the D.C. theatre, began previews May 31. Loosely based on the life of pointillist Georges Seurat and inspired by his painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," the Sondheim James Lapine musical starred Raúl Esparza, who was most recently on Broadway as the Emcee in Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, as the French impressionist, and Melissa Errico, of My Fair Lady and High Society fame, as his mistress Dot. The Sunday cast also included Florence Lacey (Yvonne), Cris Groenendaal (Jules), Donna Migliaccio (Nurse and Mrs.), Jason Gilbert (Franz), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Celeste 1), Sherri Edelen (Celeste 2), Michael L. Forrest (Boatman), Bob McDonald (Louis), Amy McWilliams (Frieda), Matthew Shepard (Soldier), Daniel Felton (Horn Player), Mary Jayne Raleigh (Woman with baby carriage), Harry Winter (Mr.), Linda Stephens (Old Lady) and Annie Simon (a Boy bathing in the river and Jules and Yvonne's daughter).
The next trio of musicals — Merrily We Roll Along, Passion and A Little Night Music — began July 12 with Merrily, the short-lived 1981 musical about three aspiring writers. Raúl Esparza, who starred as Seurat in the aforementioned Sunday in the Park, portrayed lyricist Charley Kringas opposite Michael Hayden's Franklin Shepard and Miriam Shor's Mary Flynn. The remainder of the cast comprised Emily Skinner (Gussie), Adam Heller (Joe), Anastasia Barzee (Beth), Jason Gilbert (Tyler), John Jellison (Terry), Sherri Edelen (Scotty), Mary Jayne Raleigh (Dory), Sean Mclaughlin (Ru), Keith Byron Kirk (Jerome), Thursday Farrar (KT), Tracy Lynn Olivera (Meg Kincaid), Edgar Godineaux (Bunker), Ty Hreben (TV Newsman), Amy McWilliams (TV Newswoman), Jason Gilbert (Make-up Artist), Mary Jayne Raleigh (Stage Manager), Sherri Edelen (Evelyn), John Jellison (Mr. Spencer), Peggy Yates (Mrs. Spencer), Edgar Godineaux (Pianist), Ty Hreben (Photographer), Amy McWilliams (First Girl) and Keith Byron Kirk (Minister). Based on Ettore Scola's Italian film "Passion d'Amore," Sondheim and James Lapine's Passion began previews July 19. Three Broadway regulars, all former Tony nominees — Judy Kuhn, Michael Cerveris and Rebecca Luker — headed the cast as, respectively, Fosca, Giorgio and Clara. The remainder of the 14-member company included John Leslie Wolfe (Colonel Ricci), Philip Goodwin (Doctor Tambourri), Daniel Felton (Lieutenant Torasso), Bob McDonald (Sergeant Lombardi), Lawrence Redmond (Lieutenant Barri), Michael L. Forrest (Major Rizzolli), Will Gartshore (Private Augenti), Teresa Reid (Fosca’s Mother), Stephen Schmidt (Fosca’s Father), Ty Hreben (Ludovic) and Tracy Lynn Olivera (Mistress). Eric Schaeffer, the artistic director of the entire Sondheimfest, helmed Passion; he also directed the Kennedy Center mounting of Sunday in the Park with George as well.
The sixth and final production of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Sondheim Celebration, A Little Night Music, began performances Aug. 2 at the Center's Eisenhower Theatre. Tony Award winner Blair Brown headed the cast as Desiree Armfeldt, and the former star of Broadway's Copenhagen was joined by Douglas Sills (Count Carl Magnus Malcolm), Randy Graff (Countess Charlotte Malcolm), John Dosset (Fredrik Egerman), Sarah Uriarte Berry (Anne Egerman), Danny Gurwin (Henrik Egerman), Barbara Bryne (Madame Armfeldt), Natascia Diaz (Petra), Christopher Flint (Mr. Lindquist), Siobhan Kolker (Mrs. Nordstrom), Ilona Dulaski (Mrs. Anderssen), Peter Cormican (Mr. Erlanson), Anna Bergman (Mrs. Segstrom), Kristen Bell (Fredrika Armfeldt), Erik Sorensen (Frid, the Butler) and Terri Allen (Malla, the Maid). Directed by Mark Brokaw, the Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical featured such tunes as "Send in the Clowns," "Every Day a Little Death," "The Miller's Son" and "A Weekend in the Country."
The Celebration's last offering, the New National Theatre of Japan's production of Pacific Overtures, will run Sept. 3 to Sept. 8. Presented earlier this summer at the Lincoln Center Festival, Pacific Overtures will be performed in Japanese with English surtitles. Takeharu Kunimoto leads the cast, playing several roles — those of Reciter, Shogun and Emperor. Directed by Amon Miyamoto, the company comprises Norihide Ochi (Councillor, Monk, Priest, Old Man, Guard), Ben Hiura (Abe, Carpenter, Superior Warrior), Haruki Sayama (Shogun's Mother, Russian Admiral, Fireman, Officer, Assassin), Usaburo Oshima (Councillor, Grandmother), Shintaro Sonooka (Thief, Swordsman, Guard), Atsushi Haruta (Madam, French Admiral, Merchant, Officer, Palanquin Bearer), Yuji Hirota (Observer, Noble, Sailor, Peasant, Warrior, Officer), Akira Sakemoto (Fisherman, Physician, Officer, British Admiral, Palanquin Bearer), Masaki Kosuzu (Manjiro, Peasant, Officer), Kanjiro Murakami (Priest, Girl, Dutch Admiral, Samurai, Messenger, Officer, Assassin), Shuji Honda (Kayama, Fish Seller), Kirihito Saito (Samurai, Companion, Boy, Noble, Peasant), Makoto Okada (Observer, Merchant, Soothsayer, Lord, Sailor, Priest), Shinichiro Hara (American Admiral, Sailor, Commodore Perry [Act I: Scene 9-10], Warrior), Takanori Yamamoto (Warrior, Commodore Perry [Act I: Scene 4; Act II: Scene 6]), Kyoko Donowaki (Shogun's Wife, Middle-Aged Wife, Girl, Priest), Urara Awata (Girl, Samurai's Daughter), Shunpo (Tamate, Middle-Aged Wife), Mayu Yamada (Son, Companion of Shogun's Wife, Girl) and Takeshi Ishikawa (Warrior, Officer, Understudy).
For those who were unable to make it to D.C., on Oct. 21 at 8 PM, the Kennedy Center will present "A Concert Spectacular of Musical Highlights Featuring Stars from the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration" at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. The evening will include performances from all six musicals as well as songs rendered by Mandy Patinkin and Barbara Cook, who both presented their personal Sondheim tributes at the D.C. celebration. Tickets are available at the Avery Fisher Hall box office, which is located at Broadway and 64th Street, or on-line at www.lincolncenter.org. Interested concertgoers can also call CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500.
—By Andrew Gans