April 23, 2020
Legendary Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim will be toasted with an all-star birthday concert, streaming live on Sunday, April 26 at 8PM ET. Hosted by Raúl Esparza, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and coinciding with the 50th Broadway anniversary of Sondheim’s Company, Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration can be seen for free on Broadway.com and the Broadway.com YouTube channel.
This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include songs of inspiration from the Sondheim catalog performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.
Esparza, the evening’s host and producer, starred as Bobby in the Tony Award-winning revival of Company in 2006 and in the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration productions of Sunday in the Park (George) and Merrily We Roll Along(Charlie) in 2002. He also headlined City Center’s Encores! productions of Anyone Can Whistle and last year’s Road Show.
“The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great,” says Esparza. “Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified. So, we’ve assembled a group of people who love Steve and have worked with Steve and have been inspired by Steve to sing his music and share some joy and some heartache together. We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us. Besides, Stephen Sondheim turned 90. How many times do you get to be 90? 11? So come on, say it, get it over with, come on, quick…happy birthday.”
Directed by Paul Wontorek, Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration is being presented in support of ASTEP, the organization conceived by the event’s musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, and Juilliard students to transform the lives of youth using the most powerful tool they had: their art. In times of turbulence and trauma, the arts provide a space for healing, a platform for connectivity and an outlet to express ourselves. They’re also crucial to the development of mindfulness, an important element of mental health, especially in times of struggle. More than ever, ASTEP artists are needed to create that space for the most vulnerable among us. In this current moment of crisis, the youth we serve are navigating food scarcity, economic hardships and home safety, among a host of other issues. Serving them has been the primary mission of ASTEP for 14 years, and with your support, the organization will continue to be here for the needs of students and partners as we learn to adapt to this precarious new reality.
“Sondheim shows us the depth of our hearts, the complexity of our minds, and all that it is possible to accomplish through his brilliant marriage of music and storytelling,” Campbell adds. “Artists Striving to End Poverty aims to make sure that all children living in challenging situations have the opportunity to be transformed by the making of art. In my personal experience, encountering Stephen Sondheim’s music has helped these children imagine an entirely different life and future for themselves. Linking Sondheim and ASTEP together during this very difficult time made perfect sense to us. Children and art.”