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Broadway Honored Stephen Sondheim With a Performance of “Sunday”

 

Mandy Patinkin being caressed by Bernadette Peters in Sunday in the Park With George

Stephen Sondheim, musical theatre legend and Pulitzer Prize winner, passed away this weekend at the age of 91. Personally, this one hurt. Sondheim was my favorite composer and created some of my favorite musicals to date. He was a master of storytelling and had a unique gift of creating stories that would stay with us long after we’ve left the theatre.

His music has a power to break us apart and uplift us at the same time. Whether it is laughing along with “A Little Priest” from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street or crying to “Marry Me a Little” and “Being Alive” from Company, we always knew we’d feel something when we went into a Sondheim show.

To honor the theatre legend, Broadway luminaries gathered in Times Square on Sunday to perform “Sunday” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George and, much like his work, left us feeling both heartbroken and whole at the same time.

According to Playbill, there were plenty of Broadway stars there to honor Sondheim:

Theatre icons on hand included Lin-Manuel Miranda, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Sara Bareilles, Raúl Esparza, Stephen Schwartz, Laura Benanti, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Josh Groban, Erich Bergen, Lonny Price, Jim Walton, Tom Kitt, Reeve Carney, Eva Noblezada, Marc Shaiman, Lauren Patten, Kathryn Gallagher, Abby Mueller, Judy Kuhn, Brandon Uranowitz, Adam Chanler-Berat, Tavi Gevinson, Erin Davie, Bryan Clark Tyrell, and many more. The event was co-presented by the Broadway League, the Times Square Alliance, and Playbill. The participants were conducted by Michael J. Moritz. Erich Bergen produced.

It is beautiful and perfect and a wonderful example of the power that Sondheim’s music had on us all.

The Beauty of Sunday

I know it is strange, but I refuse to listen to Stephen Sondheim musicals until I’ve seen them, mainly because I want to experience the magic that Sondheim creates with his lyrics and music as I am watching the story unfold. That meant that I went into a performance of Sunday in the Park With George without knowing what I was getting myself into. And yet, somehow, I think that even if I knew, I’d have been moved by the beauty of the art happening before me.

The story is of Georges Seurat creating his painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and the lost love of his life, Dot. (Dot because Seurat was famous for his pointillism.) But what Sondheim did with Seurat’s work was give us a story of a tortured artist who could not express his feelings without sharing too much of his soul, and it leaves us with a sense of longing and upset for not only Georges, but ourselves, as well.

“Anything you do, let it come from you, then it will be new. Give them more to see,” Dot sings to Georges, but it is a message to the artists in us all. Art isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and Sondheim tried time and time again to remind the world that art is beautiful and good. So, honoring him by singing “Sunday” on a Sunday in the heart of Broadway feels fitting and beautiful.

(image: PBS)

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Rachel (she/her) is an I, Tonya stan who used to have a poster of Frank Sinatra on her wall as a kid. She loves superheroes, weird musicals, wants Robert Downey Jr. to release a new album, and would sell her soul for Pedro Pascal as Kraven the Hunter. She is Leslie Knope and she's okay with that. Secretly Grogu's mom and Lizzie Olsen's best friend.