CabaretMusic ReviewsTom Williams

A Little Sondheim Music

A concert celebrating the 80th birthday

of  Stephen Sondheimraavinia

With the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Paul Gemignani, Conductor

With Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald,

Michael Cerveris & George Hearn

Directed by Lonny Price

At Ravinia as part of the Women’s Board Gala 2010

Tuneful concert  celebrates composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim

Featuring the fully lush sound of the full Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Women’s Board 2010 Gala sponsored another birthday celebration  (his 80th) for Stephen Sondheim in a concert that featured a rich assortment of Sondheim’s songbook with emphasis on his terrific wordplay lyrics.

patti lupone

The 65 minute concert started with a rousing Sondheim overture that gave depth to the composers unique style. Indeed the CSO lifted his tunes into the stratosphere!

The four vocalists: Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Michael Cerveris and George Hearn got this going with Sondheim’s “Together Wherever We Go” from Gypsy. Michael Cerveris nailed the tricky lyrics from “Finishing the Hat” and he and LuPone emotionally landed “Move On” both from Sunday in the Park with George.

george hearn

Hearn, LuPone, McDonald and Cerveris sang a selection from A Little Night Music includding: “You Must Meet My Wife,” “Everyday A Little Death,” “Glamorous Life” (sung superbly by McDonald), “Send In The Clowns” emotionally rendered by LuPone and “It Would Have Been Wonderful” featuring Hearn and Cerveris.

michael cerveris

Patti LuPone roused the audience with the anthem “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from her performance as Mama Rose (Gypsy) that started at Ravinia and eventually to Broadway garnering LuPone another Tony. The crowd cheered!

audra mcdonald

Selections from Passion and Anyone Can Whistle and a funny performance of  “Pretty Women” and “A Little Priest” demonstrated Sondheim’s smartly sophisticated lyrics as well as the talents of LuPone, Hearn and Cerveris to ‘sell’ a song. The show concluded with a bouncy rendition of  “Side By Side” from Company.

I only wished the show was longer since so many of Sondheim songbook begged to be heard. I was amazed that there wasn’t a bio of Stephen Sondheim nor any anecdotes about him presented on his birthday celebration. But then again, his songs speak to his genius – and that surly is enough.  I enjoyed the concert. Maybe a Jerry Herman, Kender & Ebb or Harold Arlen concert could be mounted at Ravinia? We can hope.


Tom Williams

July 31, 2010

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