Rebecca Paller

Associate Curator

March 22, 2010

Sondheim at 80—Uncork the Champagne (and nuzzle up to your computer)

by Rebecca Paller

Composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim is 80 today—and New York City is euphoric.

The first of several major celebrations took place last week at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall (a star-studded concert with Bernadette, Mandy, Audra, Donna, et al.—and if you have to ask for last names you shouldn’t be reading this), and the party continues tonight with a gala preview performance of a new revue at Broadway’s Roundabout Theatre—Sondheim on Sondheim, starring Barbara Cook, Norm Lewis, Vanessa Williams, and Tom Wopat as well as the birthday boy himself, who is seen in a series of video interviews talking about his life and his work.

I caught the first preview of Sondheim on Sondheim this past Friday, and—though it’s not kosher to review a show that’s still a work in progress—I suppose I won’t be struck dead if I softly murmur five words: Barbara Cook Norm Lewis sublime.

Yesterday Jonathan Schwartz devoted most of his Sunday Show on WNYC, from noon to 4, to Sondheim—and I was happily “puttering all around the house” listening to, quite literally, the songs of my life. (I was but a bonnie wee lass when my father came home from a business trip to New York, singing a catchy song called “Comedy Tonight” that he had just heard in “a hilarious new show by this young guy named Stephen Sondheim”…and the first show that I saw when I moved to New York in 1983 was Sunday in the Park with George.) The most moving parts of the Sunday Show were the tracks of Sondheim playing and singing his own music including “Love Is in the Air,” “Everybody Says Don’t,” and “Marry Me a Little.” There was something especially raw and poignant in these renditions that made me understand (all over again) why no one else writing for musical theater today does a better job of illuminating the human condition.

All day today, until 11 tonight, Symphony Space is rebroadcasting their Wall to Wall Stephen Sondheim celebration from five years ago. (You just missed Elaine Stritch singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” and an interview with Sondheim, but if you’re quick on the trigger you can still catch Marin Mazzie, Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, and Barbara Cook. Go to

This Wednesday (March 24), there’s another treat in store: a performance of A Little Night Music recorded last month at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris is scheduled to be broadcast on France Music and simulcast on the web. This is the gorgeous production—-directed by Lee Blakeley and starring Greta Scacchi as Desiree Armfeldt, Leslie Caron as Madame Armfeldt, and Lambert Wilson as Fredrik Egerman—that everyone has been raving about. It’s heavenly just to think about the divine Ms. Caron making her entrance by waltzing onto the stage. Her Madame Armfeldt, you see, is remembering her youth of days gone by.

The Paley Center in New York is saluting the television work of Stephen Sondheim through April 4. Click here for a complete schedule.

Ah, rapture. Ah, Sondheim. Happy Birthday, and thank you for all the happiness you’ve given me.

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Rebecca Paller

Associate Curator


Before joining the Paley Center in 2000, Rebecca Paller was associate editor of Where Magazine in New York and Northern Ohio Live in Cleveland. She has written about the arts for publications including Opera News, American Theatre, Vogue, and Playbill.


Performing Arts


Rebecca Paller

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