May 30, 2000 Sondheim 70th Birthday Concert at Library of Congress Attracts Cream of Broadway

Festivities to Be Broadcast on NPR

Contact: Helen Dalrymple (202) 707-1940

Broadway stars Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Marin Mazzie, Debra Monk and Brian Stokes Mitchell helped legendary composer Stephen Sondheim celebrate his 70th birthday in style, as they joined him for a special Library of Congress concert on Monday, May 22, at the Coolidge Auditorium.

The concert included a performance of Sondheim's little-seen musical, The Frogs, as well as a rich sampling of songs selected by Sondheim himself from his own shows and other Broadway classics. Veteran musical director Paul Gemignani and Tony Award-winning orchestrator Jonathan Tunick also contributed their talents to the evening.

For the many fans of Mr. Sondheim who could not attend the concert, it will be broadcast on NPR stations on June 21. (Check local listings for exact date and time.)

Stephen Sondheim is the internationally renowned composer of such critically praised shows as Passion, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, Pacific Overtures, A Little Night Music, Follies, Company and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, the score for the film "Reds" and songs for the film "Dick Tracy."

Mr. Sondheim's music and lyrics have earned him numerous accolades over the years, among them multiple Tony Awards and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Academy Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Born and raised in New York City, Mr. Sondheim graduated from Williams College, where he received the Hutchinson Prize for Music Composition. He then studied theory and composition with Milton Babbitt. He is on the Council of the Dramatists Guild and the National Association of Playwrights, Composers and Lyricists; he served as its president from 1973 to 1981. In 1983, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 1990, he was appointed the first Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University.

The 70th birthday concert began with a condensed version of The Frogs, a loose adaptation of Aristophanes' play of the same name that was first performed in 1974 for eight performances at the Yale Repertory Theater and never recorded. The next section will be devoted to "Songs I Wish I'd Written," Mr. Sondheim's favorite pieces from other composers, ranging from Irving Berlin's "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" to "My Man's Gone Now" from Porgy and Bess.

The finale will feature "Songs I'm Glad I Wrote," with selections from Sondheim's own Sunday in the Park with George and Merrily We Roll Along.

Also on hand for the evening were an orchestra and a small chorus of local singers prepared by Norman Scribner, founder/director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington.


PR 00-082
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