A major tribute to musicals composer Stephen Sondheim was held on Saturday, 31 July, in London to celebrate his 80th year.
The tribute was led by actress Judi Dench as part of a special Sondheim at 80 BBC Proms event at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Judi Dench reprised Send In the Clowns from A Little Night Music, which she famously performed in Sean Mathias’s 1995 production at the National Theatre, winning an Olivier award for the role.
Dench said before the event: “Singing at the Proms is not something I ever imagined I would do and it’s a hugely exciting – if slightly daunting – prospect. I believe that Stephen Sondheim is a true genius. His impact on musical theatre can never be over-stated and I’m delighted to be part of his 80th birthday celebrations at the BBC Proms.”
The concert also saw a host of Sondheim aficionados perform, including Daniel Evans and Julian Ovenden, who will resurrect their original parts in the Donmar Warehouse’s 2000 production of Merrily We Roll Along in a special concert at the Queen’s Theatre on 31 October 2010; Simon Russell Beale sang a fabulously camp Everybody Ought to Have a Maid from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and who is about to appear in Deathtrap at the Noel Coward Theatre; and Bryan Terfel and Maria Friedman sang as Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett. Other performers included Caroline O’Connor, who will bring her one-woman show, The Showgirl Within, to the Garrick Theatre from 3 October, and Jenna Russell who will play the Baker’s wife in Sondheim’s Into The Woods at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park from this Thursday, 5 August.
Sondheim shows featured in the concert included Follies, Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods, The Frogs and Company.
The performers were joined by a chorus of singers from the BBC Performing Arts Fund, the BBC Concert Orchestra and conductor and architect of the Prom, David Charles Abell.
Stephen Sondheim was present at the concert and gave a pre-concert talk that was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.