Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald and a dizzying, star-studded cast will perform a special virtual concert in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday. The occasion will stream for free on the Broadway.com website and YouTube channel April 26 at 8 p.m.
Titled “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration,” the event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the composer’s 1970 musical “Company.” In turn, the night will be hosted and produced by Raúl Esparza, who starred as Bobby in the Tony Award-winning 2006 revival.
“The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great,” Esparza said in a statement announcing the event. “Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified. So, we’ve assembled a group of people who love Steve and have worked with Steve and have been inspired by Steve to sing his music and share some joy and some heartache together.”
Guests — who also include Mandy Patinkin, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Katrina Lenk and even more still — will perform “songs of inspiration” from Sondheim’s hit musicals.
Mary-Mitchell Campbell, music supervisor and orchestrator for John Doyle’s production of “Company” in 2006, will serve as the streaming event’s music director. Broadway.com’s Paul Wontorek will direct.
“We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us,” Esparza said. “Besides, Stephen Sondheim turned 90. How many times do you get to be 90? 11? So come on, say it, get it over with, come on, quick … happy birthday.”
Beyond celebrating Sondheim’s 90th (which took place March 22), the concert will also raise money for Campbell’s nonprofit Artists Striving to End Poverty (ASTEP), which works internationally to support underprivileged youth through the arts.
“Sondheim shows us the depth of our hearts, the complexity of our minds, and all that it is possible to accomplish through his brilliant marriage of music and storytelling,” Mary-Mitchell Campbell said. “Artists Striving to End Poverty aims to make sure that all children living in challenging situations have the opportunity to be transformed by the making of art.”
She continued: “In my personal experience, encountering Stephen Sondheim’s music has helped these children imagine an entirely different life and future for themselves. Linking Sondheim and ASTEP together during this very difficult time made perfect sense to us. Children and art.”
The much-anticipated Marianne Elliott-directed “Company” revival, starring Lenk and LuPone, was originally set to make its Broadway debut March 22 in celebration of Sondheim’s 90th. A gender-swapped version of the 1970 original, Elliott’s rendition of the marriage musical cast Lenk as Bobby, the unmarried lead. While Broadway may be closed, the team of the postponed musical — including Sondheim — joined together Tuesday to wish LuPone happy birthday in a video.
“Happy Birthday, doll,” Sondheim said. “Keep doing it until you get it right.”
— COMPANY (@CompanyBway) April 21, 2020
Top Image: Patti LuPone in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company," directed by Marianne Elliott. Photo: Brinkhoff/Mogenburg.