Old Friends - Sondheim Gala

Stephen Sondheim tribute Old Friends to get West End run at the Gielgud Theatre starring Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Janie Dee, Bonnie Langford, Joanna Riding, Jac Yarrow, Christine Allado & Jeremy Secomb to star

West End impresario Cameron Mackintosh has announced that his tribute concert to Stephen Sondheim – Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends – will get a full West End run.

The show will play the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue from 16 September 2023 for a 16 week run to 6 January 2024.

The show was originally staged as a one-off concert at the Sondheim Theatre on 3 May 2022, in tribute to Stephen Sondheim, who died in 2021 at the age of 91.

Cameron Mackintosh devised and produced the show, which is to be directed by Matthew Bourne, alongside Julia McKenzie, with choreography by Stephen Mear.

The show will be conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo, with musical supervision by Stephen Brooker, musical arrangements by Stephen Metcalfe, set design by Matt Kinley, projection design by George Reeve, lighting design by Warren Letton and sound design by Mick Potter.

The West End show is set to star Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, with Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), Christine Allado (Hamilton), Janie Dee (Follies), Bonnie Langford (Anything Goes), Jeremy Secomb (Sweeney Todd), Beatrice Penny-Touré (The Phantom of the Opera), Joanna Riding (Follies) and Jac Yarrow (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat).

Further cast will be announced.

Cameron Mackintosh said in a press statement:

“Old Friends began its journey to the West End in a conversation I had with Steve during our enforced pandemic isolation – ‘It’s time we did a third show’ said Steve, and complete the trilogy that started with Side-by-Side by Sondheim in the 1970s, followed by Putting It Together in the ‘90s. We commenced work on it but as theatres and shows started to reopen post Covid, we got distracted and then suddenly on Thanksgiving just over a year ago Steve sadly left us, leaving his extraordinary legacy of work to live on forever. Over Christmas ‘21 I put together all our thoughts, and inspired by the shows I had worked on with him and Julia McKenzie, and the desire to showcase his greatest music as well as his great lyrics, the material of Old Friends miraculously fell onto the page pretty much as it is. Thanks to a phenomenal Gala cast, the show proved to be the great celebration we all wanted for our friend and inspiration – performed in the Sondheim Theatre, which I had rebuilt and renamed in his honour. The response to both the show and the subsequent television version recently screened by the BBC over the New Year has been quite overwhelming, so I am thrilled that Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters, one of my favourite old friends, is going to reprise her brilliant performance in what is astonishingly going to be her British stage debut – to be joined by Lea Salonga, who of course became my youngest old friend, when she created a sensation at the age of 17, starring in the original Miss Saigon – this will be her first West End run since Les Misérables 27 years ago. Bernadette and Lea head a stellar cast of co-stars, many of whom also appeared in last year’s unforgettable Gala. Steve was always a Broadway Baby at heart, so I’m delighted that I have been able to put together one last great hurrah for my old friend, containing many of the greatest songs ever written for the musical theatre, in one ‘great big Broadway show’ – just as he wanted.”

The cast of the original May 2022 concert included Michael Ball, Helena Bonham Carter, Rob Brydon, Petula Clark, Anna-Jane Casey, Rosalie Craig, Janie Dee, Judi Dench, Daniel Evans, Maria Friedman, Haydn Gwynne, Bonnie Langford, Damian Lewis, Julia Mckenzie, Julian Ovenden, Bernadette Peters, Sian Phillips, Jon Robyns, Clive Rowe, Jenna Russell, Imelda Staunton, Charlie Stemp, Gary Wilmot and Michael D. Xavier.

It was staged by Matthew Bourne, Maria Friedman and Stephen Mear, and conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo.

You can watch the concert on BBC iPlayer – here. Also check out the song list for Old Friends, and read reviews of the night.

Currently playing at the Gielgud Theatre is the Tony award-winning Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird starring Matthew Modine, which plays until 20 May 2023 at the theatre. It is currently unclear what will run in the theatre from June to August 2023.

More about tickets to Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends at the Gielgud Theatre in London

📷 Main photo: Old Friends - Sondheim Gala. Photo by Danny Kaan

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