Stephen Sondheim is an American Musical Theatre icon with his work spanning more than 60 years. When you grow up with Oscar Hammerstein II as your mentor, it’s no wonder you become as legendary as Stephen Sondheim.
On Sunday, April 26th, dozens of actors, singers, musicians and more came together to celebrate the life of this tremendous composer and lyricist. In case you didn’t catch it, it’s still up on Youtube. So, pour yourself a vodka stinger and give the celebration a watch!
Here were some of my favorite moments.
Thank God all of these musicians have their instruments at home so we could be blessed with the Merrily We Roll Along overture. A recording would not do it justice at all, and a show isn’t complete without an overture.
The YouTube comedian Randy Rainbow knows it’s his time to shine while the “girls” are all stuck in quarantine. He sings “By the Sea” from Sweeney Todd, and I’m obsessed with all the different hats (literally), the background changes, and the jokes! This one was certainly a good laugh!
Honestly, Katrina Lenk’s “Johanna” was one of my favorite performances. I love that she decided to play this song on the guitar, it fit her voice perfectly. It was so mesmerizing and entrancing I could listen to this rendition all day long.
Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters
Only Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters could pull off singing Sondheim a capella. Mandy stands in a field, with his dog, and the sound of rustling water in the background. Bernadette? Simply in her robe in her home with no gimmicks and no frills appropriately singing, “No One Is Alone”. They are both simply perfect.
Steven Spielberg says a “Happy Birthday” to Sondheim as they’ve been working together over the past year on the new West Side Story film. Spielberg says, “Hi Stephen, it’s Steven #2.” Can you imagine being “Stephen #1” over Steven Spielberg?! He then says, “It was like going back to school and meeting my most favorite professor.” When you’re Steven Spielberg’s idol that’s real #lifegoals.
As Raúl Esparza introduces his song, he starts explaining what “Into The Woods” is about but quickly realizes, “Why am I telling you the story of Into The Woods? You know what it’s about otherwise you wouldn’t be here!” Of course we know the show! All the Sondheim fans are united right here, right now! Then he does the right thing to compare Sondheim to Shakespeare and Mozart. Yes, Stephen, you do sit up there with the greats.
The Kids of Sondheim
Sondheim doesn’t have kids, but a lot of these actors do and I love how willing their kids were to be a part of this production. Sutton Foster’s little girl even had an “I Love Sondheim” shirt and my immediate question is: How do I get one?! Neil Patrick Harris’s kids were more than happy to be ensemble members in his rendition of “The Witch’s Rap”. Iain Armitage (Young Sheldon) makes an appearance also to tell us how much of an impact Stephen Sondheim has had in his life at the old age of 11. I think he’s more grown up than I am.
Realizing there are people in this world who know Stephen Sondheim well enough to call him “Steve” adds a life goal to my list. If I ever had the opportunity to meet Stephen Sondheim, I would 100% call him Mr. Sondheim because I know I am a plebe and a groundling not worthy of his genius.
The Ladies Who Lunch
If for nothing else, please watch this video for “The Ladies Who Lunch”. The ladies? Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep, and Audra McDonald. All pouring themselves a drink and lounging in their robes and giving sass. These performances are just what we needed during this quarantine, and well, I’ll drink to that!
After the Credits
As the credits rolled, I thought, man, I wish there was more. And there was! More singers and actors come together to bring this ensemble version of “I’m Still Here” from Follies. Broadway favorites like Andre de Shields, Jessica Vosk, Ciara Renée, Rob McClure and dozens more join together to pay even more tribute to the beloved Stephen Sondheim.
I’ve never met Stephen Sondheim, but from all the stories shared about him, I imagine he is just the most tremendous person you would ever know. He’s like the loving father pushing us further out of our comfort zone and teaching us things we never thought we could learn, sharing his genius in the most humble way possible. He’s an inspiration and his work will stay in our hearts forever. Joanna Gleason said it perfectly: “This is your birthday but you are the gift. And not just to me, to all of us.” Happy Birthday, Mr. Sondheim!