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The Sondheim Celebration: Ten  Years Later

A decade ago, the Kennedy Center hosted an unprecedented look into the mind of a modern genius by exploring the works of Stephen Sondheim through the Sondheim Celebration. From May to August of 2002, the Kennedy Center made theatrical history by saluting Stephen Sondheim by producing six musicals that span the full scope of his artistic genius. The Sondheim Celebration stretched the staff, artists, and directors to the limits of their creative abilities and stunned the world of the performing arts. The critics gave remarkable tour de force reviews and audiences clamored to snatch up tickets to the hottest shows in town. There has been nothing like it since.

Retrospective

The Sondheim Celebration: Looking Back

On February 11, 2002, the day the box office opened for the sale of tickets to the Sondheim Celebration, customers began lining up before the building opened. At close of business, more than $600,000 worth of tickets had been purchased - unprecedented sales for an unprecedented event: six musicals in repertory during four months. By the middle of August, each show had become virtually sold out.

Reactions

Reviews

"The scope and ambition of the event itself at the Kennedy Center this summer is in a way a kind of perfect mirror of the scope and ambition of Sondheim's work,"

Director Mark Brokaw, quoted in The New York Times.

"Steve Sondheim held a dinner at his house, which was great; all of us around his dinner table. And he said: 'Look, I encourage you to explore these works in ways they've never been explored. If you want to try something, come to me. I'm open to anything.' Everyone went away and started thinking,"

Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer, quoted in The New York Times.

"It has been the kind of binge that can leave you a little delirious, this summer-long Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center. You want to slow down time, take it all in, soak up every note, for this is the theatrical lap of luxury. Don't bet on seeing its like for a while,"

Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post.

Press

"I'm rather overwhelmed by the size of this venture, but I'm looking forward to an extraordinary summer in Washington, D.C.,"

Stephen Sondheim as quoted in The Washington Post.

"What we're trying to do is raise the brilliance quotient,"

Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, quoted in USA Today.

"The most thrilling thing about this for me is being able to work with Sondheim in the flesh,"

Director Mark Brokaw, quoted in The Washington Post

Looking Back at the Shows

As is the genius of Stephen Sondheim, each musical featured in the Celebration touched on very different topics; each retaining their unique identity while collaborating to communicate his brilliance. The performances were reviewed by critics around the world.

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Sondheim's "Company"

Winner of the 1971 Tony Award for Best Musical, Company is a passionate favorite of Sondheim fans. This bittersweet, clever portrayal of five married couples—as seen through the eyes of bachelor friend Robert—explores love and commitment, fear and longing, and the simple joy of being alive.

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along"

Sondheim's musical adaptation of the unheralded Kaufman and Hart play transforms the story of three successful people looking back on their lost friendship. Winner of London's 2001 Olivier Award for Best New Musical, this heartfelt show poses the question “How did we get from here to there?” and strives to answer it for three friends reflecting on years of aspiration and reality, relationships both sweet and sour, and dreams fulfilled and unfulfilled.

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim's "A Little Night Music"

Lost loves…tender memories…secret yearnings…shy beginnings…scandalous affairs…and the rekindling of long—buried passion…it's all part of an unforgettable weekend in the country in Sondheim's lush, witty musical. Featuring the classic song "Send in the Clowns," this Tony-winning Best Musical of 1973 traces the myriad forms of love and desire through the intersecting relationships of an irresistible cast of characters.

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim's "Passion"

He is a handsome soldier; she is homely and ailing. The turbulent relationship between Giorgio and Fosca may seem impossible, but it proves to be all-consuming in this 1994 Tony winner for Best Musical. This luminous show rhapsodizes on the theme of love, but also plumbs its darker side in a haunting tale of obsession and possession.

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George"

French artist George Seurat's famous painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte comes vibrantly to life in this Pulitzer Prize-winning musical. Through the life of the famous painter, who won't commit to anyone or anything except his work-Sondheim merges past and present into basic, poignant truths about art, creation, and emotion.

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd"

In Victorian England, a vengeful Sweeney Todd has just been released from jail for a crime he did not commit. With his dazzlingly demented accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, the "demon barber of Fleet Street" cooks up a hilariously macabre revenge scheme in this crafty, comedic, and captivating musical, which stars Broadway favorites and Tony Award winners Brian Stokes Mitchell (Kiss Me, Kate, Ragtime, King Hedley II) and Christine Baranski (The Real Thing, Rumors, TV's "Cybill"). The show won eight 1979 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and also captured the 1979 Grammy for best cast album.

Art by Fraver

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Test show display

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http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=TLTSD

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Test show display

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http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=TCPAC

Art by Fraver

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Test show display

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http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=KCINT

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim on Sondheim

watch Sondheim On SondheimIn a rare interview in front of a live audience, Stephen Sondheim sat with Frank Rich and talked about his career in the theater business, fielded questions from the audience and spoke about his feelings on the Sondheim Celebration. View the entire interview online here.

http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=TCSYM

Art by Fraver

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Sondheim Celebration

This acclaimed star of stage, film, and TV interprets the moving and insightful songs of Stephen Sondheim.

http://www.kennedy-center.org/events/?event=XCPAT

Art by Fraver

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On the Stage

In a rare interview, Stephen Sondheim talked at length about his storied career in the theater, while the stars of The Sondheim Celebration stepped out on the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, singing and dancing to their favorite Sondheim tunes.

Apr. 28, 2002 Sondheim on Sondheim Sondheim sitting during his interview click to watch the video

In a rare interview in front of a live audience, Stephen Sondheim sat with Frank Rich and talked about his career in the theater business, fielded questions from the audience and spoke about his feelings on the Sondheim Celebration.

June 11, 2002 John Barrowman Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

John Barrowman appeared in the Sondheim Celebration as Robert in Company. Mr. Barrowman has performed on Broadway and London's West End as well as on television's Titans and Central Park West. In this clip of his Millennium Stage show appearance, he performs songs from the Broadway canon.

Millennium Stage performance

June 20, 2002 Cris Groenendaal Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Cris Groenendaal appeared in the Sondheim Celebration as Jules in Sunday in the Park with George. Mr. Groenendaal has starred on Broadway as the Phantom, appeared as guest artist with symphony orchestras across the U.S., and recorded two solo albums.

Millennium Stage performance

June 24, 2002 Alice Ripley Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Tony Award®-winning actress Alice Ripley appeared in the Sondheim Celebration as Amy in Company. In this clip of her Millennium Stage show appearance, she performs "suburban folk" from her solo release Everything's Fine, ranging from piano tunes to guitar rock.

Millennium Stage performance

August 12, 2002 Judy Kuhn Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Judy Kuhn appeared in the Sondheim Celebration production of Passion. In this clip of her Millennium Stage show appearance, she is accompanied by piano, bass, and drums in a program that ranges from Rogers and Hart and Kurt Weill to Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell.

Millennium Stage performance

August 13, 2002 Christy Baron Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Christy Baron appeared in the Sondheim Celebration production of Company. In this clip of her Millennium Stage show appearance, she is accompanied by piano, bass, and drums while performing jazz standards and new songs written with David Fink.

Millennium Stage performance

August 18, 2002 Michael Cerveris Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Michael Cerveris appeared in the Sondheim Celebration production of Passion. In this clip of his Millennium Stage show, he and his band present an evening of heartfelt rock and dark-edged ballads, including songs from his project, hellbaby.

Millennium Stage performance

August 20, 2002 Mary Jayne Raleigh Photo from the  June 20, 2002 performance. click to watch the video

Mary Jayne Raleigh appeared in the Sondheim Celebration production of Merrily We Roll Along. In this clip of her Millennium Stage show, she performs the cabaret show "What I Know" with Jay Crowder.

Millennium Stage performance

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