Watch: Meryl Streep, Jake Gyllenhaal, Christine Baranski and more in Sondheim birthday concert
James R | On 27, Apr 2020
Stars joined together late last night for a free concert to mark Stephen Sondheim turning 90 this year – and the whole thing can be watched for free on YouTube below.
The legendary Broadway composer and lyricist has given us everything from West Side Story and Sweeney Todd to Into the Woods a Little Night Music and Company. Last month, he turned the ripe age of 90 and so, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Sondheim’s Company debuting on Broadway, a host of artists who have appeared in his musicals all logged on to their computers at 1am to perform some of his most well-known numbers.
Organised by Broadway.com and Raúl Esparza – Bobby in the 2006 Tony-winning revival of Company – was held to help raise money for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty). (You can donate here.)
“The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great,” said Esparza. “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. We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us. 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.”
Directed by Paul Wontorek, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the concert featured Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Ben Platt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Josh Groban, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage and Stephen Schwartz.
Mixed by Michael Croiter (Yellow Sound Label), the musicians backing them included Matt Aronoff, Ted Arthur, Summer Boggess, Benedict Braxton-Smith, Caleb Burhans, Katherine Cherbas, Nicholas Connors, Monica Davis, James De La Garza, Elizabeth Doran, Tedd Firth, Michael Gacetta, Lino Gomez, Todd Groves, Chris Gurr, Richard Heckman, Sarah Hewitt, Tony Kadleck, Steve Kenyon, Adda Kridler, Alex Lacamoire, Randy Landau, Judy Lee, Dan Lipton, Nate Mayland, Julie McBride, Jeff Nelson, Jon Owens, Jocelin Pan, Jared Schonig, Sara Seiver, Matt Smallcomb, Mark Stephens, Billy Stritch, Mark Thrasher, Larry Yurman and Meg Zervoulis.
Highlights included Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald and Meryl Streep downing drinks in dressing gowns while performing The Ladies Who Lunch, Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford reuniting from their 2017 production of Sunday in the Park with George – originally set to open in the West End this summer – and Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt performing It Takes Two. Neil Patrick Harris paid tribute to Sondheim’s influence on him, talking of how he “didn’t know music could work that way” until he was introduced to Into the Woods, before his kids helped him perform The Witch’s Rap from the fairytale musical. And, finally, Bernadette Peters closed out the gig with No One Is Alone unaccompanied.
The concert was beset by technical glitches, starting an hour late with Esparza’s opening monologue unable to be heard. The good news is that all 2 hours and 22 minutes can be streamed on YouTube without any delays or interruptions.
Watch Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration below: