Imelda Staunton, Jamie Parker, Jenna Russell, Nicholas Parsons, Gareth Valentine, Bill Deamer, Dame Esther Rantzen add support to a crowd-funded Stephen Sondheim birthday gala at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane
HEY, OLD FRIENDS!
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – 25 October 2015
West End leading lady IMELDA STAUNTON has added her name to a list of supporters for a star-studded charity gala to honour Stephen Sondheim at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane this October. The Gypsy star is the latest to lend her support to the event, which is seeking to secure funds using the crowd-sourcing platform Kickstarter.
“This year, Stephen Sondheim turned 85, and some of his old friends here in London – and I’m sure a few young ones – feel that we’d like to do something to celebrate,” says Ms Staunton in a video released as part of the fund-raising campaign. “But we need your help to make it happen.”
Also lending support are History Boys actor JAMIE PARKER (Assassins, currently starring in High Society at the Old Vic); the Olivier Award winner and Tony nominee JENNA RUSSELL (Sunday in the Park with George, Into The Woods, Merrily We Roll Along), and stage, screen and radio legend NICHOLAS PARSONS (Into The Woods) with more talent from the West End set to confirm in the coming weeks. Subject to availability, Olivier Award winner BILL DEAMER (Top Hat) will direct and choreograph the show, and acclaimed West End Musical Director GARETH VALENTINE – recent MD of City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse and last seen on stage conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Follies at the Royal Albert Hall – will conduct.
The gala, titled HEY, OLD FRIENDS!, is also being staged in support of The Silver Line charity, founded by DAME ESTHER RANTZEN, DBE, who says: “I think it’s an absolutely spectacular idea to put together a gala concert to honour Stephen Sondheim in his 85th year, and to do it for a really good cause. ‘Hey Old Friends!’ is particularly appropriate, as this is what The Silver Line does – it listens to older people who may need friendship, who may need information or advice, but who have literally no-one else to talk to.” Profits from the show will be donated to The Silver Line.
Hey, Old Friends! is supported by THE STEPHEN SONDHEIM SOCIETY and produced by RICHARD DOUGLAS PRODUCTIONS, the team behind many of the large-scale charity galas staged in London, including Children Will Listen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Barbara Cook & Friends at the Coliseum, Follies in Concertat the Palladium and 30th Anniversary Side by Side by Sondheim at the Novello Theatre.
Previous gala performers have included DAME JUDI DENCH, JULIA MCKENZIE, ELAINE PAIGE, JULIAN OVENDEN, BONNIE LANGFORD, BARBARA COOK, ALISTAIR MCGOWAN, MAUREEN LIPMAN, CELIA IMRIE, JOHN BARROWMAN and RUTHIE HENSHALL.
Tickets for the October gala are on sale now at www.sondheim.org/gala. Also on offer as part of the fund-raising efforts are a range of Sondheim-inspired rewards, including mugs, a specially commission crossword, signed limited-edition prints by the West End caricaturist CLIVE FRANCIS, and exclusive access to rehearsals and an after-show party with the cast.
Advance ticket prices start at £35, and full corporate sponsorship is available.
“For this amazing concert to happen, we’re asking Sondheim fans, and supporters of quality musical theatre in general, to book their tickets now as they would for any other concert,” says Craig Glenday, Chairman of The Stephen Sondheim Society, the charitable trust behind the idea. “The only difference is that we’re offering the tickets through Kickstarter in order to guarantee bookings, and funding, up front. Richard Douglas Productions are renowned for staging absolutely spectacular galas, and I know that they’ll deliver a night to remember. We’ve got just one month to raise the funds this way, so book your tickets now, and if even if you can’t make it on the night, please pledge us whatever support you can.”
Photo: David Levene