Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim was by no means alone earlier last month at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. Artistic Director Steven Blier and associate director Michael Barrett led an impressive cast in front of a sold out audience for the New York Festival of Song’s annual benefit. 2017 marks the 29th season for the popular and critically acclaimed concert series.
Mr. Sondheim was the guest of honor and attended the 7 PM event with co-chairs Jamie Bernstein and Broadway’s most successful producer, Hal Prince. The event, all of which featured songs from Sondheim’s vast musical theater repertoire, was followed by dinner at ‘21’ Club.
Blier served as the night’s pianist and ever-engaging emcee. The night began with two rising opera stars, soprano Meredith Lustig and baritone Theo Hoffman. They performed “Two Fairy Tales”, a song which was cut from 1973’s A Little Night Music. The pair then turned to one of Sondheim’s earlier works, Evening Primrose, which was expressly written for television in 1966. They performed the dreamy duet, “Take Me to the World.”
Broadway’s original Marta from 1970’s Company, Pamela Myers, burst onto the stage like a firecracker and sang her featured number from that show, “Another Hundred People.” Soap opera and Broadway talent Ron Raines joined her for another selection from A Little Night Music, “You Must Meet My Wife.”
Sweeney Todd produced the bulk of the evening’s offerings, beginning with Metropolitan Opera singer Greer Grimsley and Raines in a rendition of “Pretty Women.” It was followed by a chilling declaration of vengeance, “Ephiphany”, but was tempered with the macabre yet cute, “Have a Little Priest.” Grimsley’s wife, mezzo-soprano Luretta Bybee, sang Mrs. Lovett’s role and later, performed her own solo with “By the Sea.” Hoffman performed the poignant and sincere, “Not While I’m Around.”
Raines, who was in the last Broadway staging of Follies, performed the psychologically and musically complex, “The Road You Didn’t Take” from that show.
“The Girls of Summer”, which found its way into the revue Marry Me A Little came next, performed by Lustig.
Blier introduced another song, “Talent” from a Sondheim show that has seen several incarnations: Gold!,Wise Guys, And Bounce have all been working titles for what is now known as Road Show. The musical tells the journey of two brothers on a quest from the Alaskan gold rush to the Florida real estate Boom. Hoffman performed the number, which speaks about a son’s refusal to believe that art isn’t a worthy endeavor.
Myers, along with the evening’s cast, led a spunky rendition of “Broadway Baby” from Follies.
Blier provided an excellent balance of well-known songs as well as more obscure numbers leaving audiences with a beguiling night to remember.
The New York Festival of Songs next concert is presented by NYFOS Next, a series which features young songwriters and interpreters of song. Broadway, Opera, and rock star (yes….Rock star), Lauren Worsham and her husband Kyle Jarrow will perform with their band, Sky Pony at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust on Wednesday May 10th. For tickets and information, click here.