REVIEW: HEY, OLD FRIENDS: An 85th Birthday Tribute to Stephen Sondheim
What a wonderful way to celebrate one of theatre’s musical legend Stephen Sondheim, with a star-studded glittering gala, singing some of his most memorable classics.
In celebration of his 85th birthday, The Sondheim Society, in conjunction with The Silver Line, put together the show-stopping spectacular ‘Hey, Old Friends’ in aid of raising funds for these two fabulous charities, with a cast of over 50 and a superb, jazzy 40-piece orchestra led by the brilliant Gareth Valentine.
With an unrivalled body of work we saw some of theatre’s finest take to the stage at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to belt out the classics, and boy did they deliver! Stars included Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, Bonnie Langford, Michael Xavier, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Daniel Evans, Haydn Gwynne and Rosemary Ashe just to name a few. Also there were some delightful performances from the budding musical stars who are lucky recipients of the Stephen Sondheim Student Performer of the Year award.
As Joseph Shovelton and Company sang the opening ‘Beautiful Girls’, the stage was awash with sparkling and sequinned dresses and it was clear that this gala was going to be a dazzling event. It was definitely a night for theatre’s leading ladies. Being a HUGE fan of Sondheim’s later creations, I am less familiar with his earlier works including Follies, Company and A Little Night Music, but I was completely seduced by the breath-taking performance of Charlotte Page singing ‘Losing My Mind’ that was just spine-tingling, equally Rosemary Ashe’s ‘Last Midnight’ from Into The Woods was faultless.
It also wouldn’t be Sondheim without a bit of comedy; original Side By Side cast member Millicent Martin sang ‘I Never Do Anything Twice’ with real sassy charm and looked wonderfully chic with her feather boa. Also the talented chaps Martin Milnes and Dominic Ferris attempted to fit 34 of their favourite Sondheim songs into just 5 minutes which was marvellously executed with great energy and humour.
Another notable performance was Bonnie Langford’s ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot’ with a special appearance from Strictly’s Anton Du Beke. The highly flexible Langford, leapt and twirled across the stage in a sequined leotard, with an old school cabaret feel that effervesced with glamour and fizz.
Sadly the musical genius couldn’t be there, but a voice message from the man himself praised the evening and the support and organisation from all involved, not to mention Director Bill Deamer, who did a sterling job and coordinated this glorious tribute.
The evening finished with an outstanding rendition by Michael Xavier of ‘Being Alive’ from Company, a reflective finale that perfectly concluded a wonderful celebration of a super talented musician and lyrist, who is perhaps one of the greatest of our time.
You can find out more information on The Sondheim Society and charity The Silver Line below.
Reviewed by Becky Usher
Photo: Darren Bell