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THE TIMES REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

Five Stars: A Star-Spangled, Unforgettable Tribute to Stephen Sondheim

by Clive Davis | The Times | May 4, 2022

Photo: Danny Kaan

Excuse me if I gush, but this was one of those nights where it was difficult to focus on highlights simply because there were so many. Cameron Mackintosh’s memorial concert for Stephen Sondheim, who died in November, began on a high note when the veteran Julia McKenzie, who did so much to champion the composer’s work on this side of the Pond, walked onto the stage to sing Side by Side by Side. Proof, if needed, that British artists don’t need to feel like intruders on this territory. They’ve made the music their own.

McKenzie’s appearance was the kind of moment which, in normal circumstances, would crown a memorable evening. In this case it was just the prelude. Of course, it was all the more fitting that this gala concert for the Stephen Sondheim Foundation was happening at the theatre (formerly known as the Queen’s) that bears the artist’s name. In his opening speech, Mackintosh wryly quipped that the twisted ankle that had prevented the great man from attending the opening in 2020 had just been an excuse to avoid having to sit through Les Misérables.

After Mackintosh had his say, the songs began to flow, with no host to cause any longueurs. Matthew Bourne and Maria Friedman — who shared directing credits — managed to cram in an immense range of material. Meanwhile, the cheering and the applause grew louder and louder. It reached its peak, perhaps, in a comic version of Broadway Baby, which began with McKenzie pretending to audition with a surly pianist before being joined by a blowsy pack of rivals including Bernadette Peters, Bonnie Langford and an insouciant Helena Bonham Carter.

Imelda Staunton sang Everything’s Coming Up Roses. Who else but Judi Dench could be entrusted with Send in the Clowns? If Dench’s delivery barely rose above a whisper, Haydn Gwynne powered through a version of The Ladies Who Lunch that was as potent and savage and tipsy as anything the late Elaine Stritch gave us. A twinkle-eyed Damian Lewis joined in the party too, kicking and shimmying his way through the risqué Everybody Ought to Have a Maid alongside Rob Brydon, Julian Ovenden and a mischievous Sian Phillips. As ever, the elegant Janie Dee glowed in the dark, sizzling through the bossa nova parody The Boy Friend.

Read the rest of the original article at The Times

Categories Charity Old Friends Philanthropy Review Theatre

LONDON THEATRE REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

A Tribute for the Ages

by Matt Wolf | London Theatre | May 4, 2022

“He’s left us with an impossible choice.” So the impresario Cameron Mackintosh told an entirely rapt crowd near the start of Old Friends, the one-off celebration of Stephen Sondheim that took place across three unforgettable hours May 3 at the Sondheim Theatre on the West End. “Impossible” because the legendary composer-lyricist left behind a capacious back catalogue when he died last November, age 91, not to mention a longlist of people who will forever be associated with his work.

Mackintosh, heralding an array of talent ranging from the “young to the ever young”, kicked off an evening rife with cheers and ovations on what, we were told, was one day shy of the 46th anniversary of the London premiere of Side By Side By Sondheim. That musical revue, produced by a then 29-year-old Mackintosh, helped bring Sondheim to the attention of the British, who have revered him ever since.

Continue reading LONDON THEATRE REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

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GUARDIAN REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

A Glorious All-Star Memorial Service: Five Stars, Ten If Rules Allowed

by Mark Lawson | The Guardian | May 4, 2022

Photo: Danny Kaan

Stephen Sondheim was so vast a talent that London on Tuesday night required two theatres to remember him, after his death in November aged 91. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh and staged by Maria Friedman – longtime collaborators who personify the title Old Friends, from a number in 1981’s Merrily We Roll Along – the show at the Sondheim (named in tribute in 2019) was simulcast on the Prince Edward stage, a version of technology developed for the NT Live theatre-cinema hybrid, though not usually used between venues 0.17 miles apart.

Caused by ticket demand (proceeds to the Stephen Sondheim foundation), this arrangement bestowed immediacy in the eponymous auditorium but the overspill audience gained greater detail from closeups and cutaways.

Continue reading GUARDIAN REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

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DEADLINE REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

Vamping It Up 

by Baz Bamigboye | Deadline | May 3, 2022

Photo: Danny Kaan

Cameron Mackintosh, the London theatre owner and impresario, nixed the idea of having a host introduce artists performing at Tuesday’s one-night-only Old Friends tribute show honoring the legacy of musical theatre genius Stephen Sondheim, who died in November at age 91.

“All you need are Steve’s words and music, and our cast. They speak, or rather sing, for themselves,“ Mackintosh explained to Deadline before the star-studded event began at London’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Worked like a treat. Thirty minutes saved, because Old Friends wasn’t lumbered with a host.

Continue reading DEADLINE REVIEW: Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’

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Sondheim’s ‘Old Friends’ Afterparty

Cast Afterparty

by Gingersnap | damian-lewis.com | May 3, 2022

L to R: Allie Esiri, Damian Lewis, Sue Latimer, Helena Bonham Carter

Media outlets are claiming it was a hit and fans feel honored to have witnessed it, so why not continue the celebrations of Sondheim’s Old Friends gala with an afterparty! After their performances, stars of the stage gathered at The Prince of Wales Theatre in Leicester Square, London, on May 3, 2022 for a little adult-cocktailing to salute the memorable event in aid of the Stephen Sondheim Foundation. View more photos of the afterparty in our Gallery here.