The third celebration of Stephen Sondheim's birthday at Feinstein's/54 Below was on March 21st. I've been a part of this celebration - produced by David Levy & Maggie Larkin - for all three years. The first year I arranged "Loving You" for the finale; last year and this year I was the music director.
I think many would agree with me when I say that this year's quasi-religious celebration (devised by Rachel Shukert) was the biggest and best yet. We moved up to prime-time, performing two shows on a Monday night, opposed to the late late show on a Saturday night. Both shows were close to, if not completely, sold out! We had Martha Plimpton - yes, that Martha Plimpton - deliver the homily at the first performance. We had the biggest Sondheimas Festival Orchestra to date, made up of Steven Cuevas on violin, Mairi Dorman-Phaneuf on cello, John Convertino on bass, and Tristan Marzeski on drums (and me on piano). We also had a great lineup of diverse performers and diverse songs, including a slightly reduced version of a complete Sondheim musical (Evening Primrose), a version of a song taken from a demo of Sondheim singing and playing ("Free" from ...Forum), and a fan-favorite from last year perform one of Sondheim's best mad scenes ("Franklin Shepard, Inc.").
We also had some great promotion and write-ups afterwards. We were a Time Out New York Critic's Pick. Broadway.com hosted Ali Ewoldt for their #LiveAtFive Persicope broadcast. Gabriela Geselowitz reviewed us on Jewcy. Logan Culwell did a great play-by-play for Playbill. (Including my name mentioned along with the line, "Next up was a quartet of Sondheim classics, all appearing in new and unique arrangements.")
To say that Sondheimas took up a lot of time the last few months would be an understatement. To say that the reward was worth it would also be an understatement, because I had such a pleasure making music that evening with this year's batch of singers and instrumentalists. Arranging and rehearsing over 60min of Sondheim with almost 20 different singers is not easy, and it doesn't happen quickly (especially when trying to make things different and working to avoid the typical presentations of these songs). In the weeks that follow, videos will be posted as well as some background and insight into the process for each number. For now: the set list. Check back for more soon!
- Sondheimas Opening ("Baby June and Her Newsboys" - Gypsy) - Sondheimas Boy Choir
- Free (A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum) - George Abud
- It Takes Two (Into the Woods) - Nikka Graff Lanzarone & George Abud
- Evening Primrose Suite (Evening Primrose) - Olli Haaskivi & Ali Ewoldt
- Putting It Together (Sunday In the Park With George) - James Jackson, Jr.
- Something's Coming/Everybody Says Don't (West Side Story/Anyone Can Whistle) - Ariana Debose
- The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (Sweeney Todd) - Sondheimas Boy Choir
- What Can You Lose (Dick Tracy) - Aaron David Gleason & Brittain Ashford
- The Best Thing That Ever Has Happened (Road Show) - Jason Forbach & Joseph Spieldenner
- In Praise of Women (A Little Night Music) - Molly Pope
- Franklin Shepard, Inc. (Merrily We Roll Along) - Larry Owens with Natalie Walker
- Last Midnight (Into the Woods) - Alex Wyse
- Finale: Our Time (Merrily We Roll Along) - Ensemble and Congregation