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Hey, Old Friends! An 85th birthday Gala for Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim Gala
Stephen Sondheim Gala – Photo by Darren Bell

West End leading lady Imelda Staunton is one of many stars providing support to a charity gala to honour Stephen Sondheim at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane this October. Staunton comments: “This year, Stephen Sondheim turned 85, and some of his old friends here in London – and I’m sure a few young ones – feel that we’d like to do something to celebrate. But we need your help to make it happen.”

Hey, Old Friends! is seeking to secure funds for the event through Kickstarter. If successful it will be the most raised for a one-off event through the platform.

Also lending support are History Boys actor Jamie Parker (Assassins, currently starring in High Society at the Old Vic); the Olivier Award winner and Tony nominee Jenna Russell (Sunday in the Park with George, Into The Woods, Merrily We Roll Along); stage, screen and radio legend Nicholas Parsons (Into The Woods); and much-loved actress Anne Reid (Coronation Street, Last Tango in Halifax). Olivier Award winner Bill Deamer (Top Hat) will direct and choreograph the show, and acclaimed West End Musical Director Gareth Valentine – recent MD of City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse and last seen on stage conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Follies at the Royal Albert Hall – will conduct.

Among the stellar line up are several British stars who have won major awards both in the West End and on Broadway starring in Sondheim shows, including:
Rosemary Ashe, Marianne Benedict, Tracie Bennett, Erin Doherty, Anton Du Beke, Daniel Evans, Dominic Ferris, Tim Flavin, Maria Friedman, Tiffany Graves, Simon Green, Haydn Gwynne, Anita Harris, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Marilyn Hill Smith, Alison Jiear, Bonnie Langford, Rula Lenska, Jason Manford, Millicent Martin, James McConnel, Grant McConvey, Julia McKenzie, Robert Meadmore, Martin Milnes, Charlotte Page, Nicholas Parsons, Michael Peavoy, Laura Pitt-Pulford, Su Pollard, Jenna Russell, Joseph Shovelton, Sally Ann Triplett and Michael Xavier.

Hey, Old Friends! is also being staged in support of The Silver Line charity, founded by Dame Esther Rantzen OBE, who comments: “I think it’s an absolutely spectacular idea to put together a gala concert to honour Stephen Sondheim in his 85th year, and to do it for a really good cause. Hey, Old Friends! is particularly appropriate, as this is what The Silver Line does – it listens to older people who may need friendship, who may need information or advice, but who have literally no-one else to talk to.” Profits from the show will be donated to The Silver Line.

The gala is supported by The Stephen Sondheim Society and produced by Richard Douglas Productions, the team behind many of the large-scale charity galas staged in London, including Children Will Listen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Barbara Cook & Friends at the Coliseum, Follies in Concert at the Palladium and 30th Anniversary Side by Side by Sondheim at the Novello Theatre.

Previous gala performers have included Dame Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Elaine Paige, Julian Ovenden, Bonnie Langford, Barbara Cook, Alistair McGowan, Maureen Lipman, Celia Imrie, John Barrowman and Ruthie Henshall.

Tickets for the October gala are already on sale. On offer as part of the fund-raising efforts are a range of Sondheim-inspired rewards, including mugs, a specially commission crossword, signed limited-edition prints by the West End caricaturist Clive Francis, and exclusive access to rehearsals and an after-show party with the cast.

Craig Glenday, Chairman of The Stephen Sondheim Society comments: “For this amazing concert to happen, we’re asking Sondheim fans, and supporters of quality musical theatre in general, to book their tickets now as they would for any other concert. The only difference is that we’re offering the tickets through Kickstarter in order to guarantee bookings, and funding, up front. Richard Douglas Productions are renowned for staging absolutely spectacular galas, and I know that they’ll deliver a night to remember. We’ve got less than one month to raise the funds this way, so book your tickets now, and even if you can’t make it on the night, please pledge us whatever support you can.

Hey, Old Friends!
Sunday 25th October
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London WC2B 5JF
Box Office Tickets are available from £35 from Kickstarter via www.sondheim.org/gala.
Twitter @SondheimSociety, #HeyOldFriends
The Stephen Sondheim Society – www.sondheim.org – is a registered charity set up to study, appreciate, and celebrate the works of the American composer and lyricist. Although based in the UK, it has a worldwide membership.

Wednesday 10th June 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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