Jonathan Tunick Recipient of Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award
It was truly a night to remember. The greatest orchestrator of all time, Jonathan Tunick, received the Stephen Sondheim Award from the Signature Theatre in a sold-out event at the Embassy of Italy on April 7, 2014.
It was a very emotional evening for not only is Tunick noted for his incredible number of musicals he has been involved in, he also possesses a very close relationship with Signature. In fact, he goes back to the years Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer began the theater in "The Garage". Tunick was awarded the very first Tony ever awarded for orchestration for TITANIC in 1997 and in 2009 was inducted into Broadway's Theatre Hall of Fame.
The evening began with a wonderful video tribute to Tunick with photos from the shows he has orchestrated. Then Conductor Jon Kalbfleisch and the 18 member Signature Orchestra opened the musical portion of the show with "Overture: MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG." Heidi Blickstaff then performed "I'm Your Man" from MEET JOHN DOE. Ron Raines was unable to attend but taking his place was the talented John Leslie Moore (soon to appear in Signature's THREE PENNY OPERA April 22-June 1, 2014) who sang "You Must Meet My Wife" with Pamela Myers from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC. Myers was the original "Marta" from COMPANY and she brought the house down with her "Another Hundred People" from that milestone show. She mentioned the song was actually cut from the musical, but only for a day. She related it was Tunick's favorite orchestration. Moore then sang a lovely number from PASSION which was followed by Blickenstaff doing "What I Did for Love" from A CHORUS LINE. She deserved the standing ovation from the large crowd.
While Stephen Sondheim was unable to attend, his very moving note was read which included "...there never has been a better orchestrator in the history of the American musical."
The highlight of the evening was watching Tunick conduct "The Overture to FOLLIES".
After a dinner of bouillabaisse, "The Young Artist Citation" was then awarded to Nick Blaemire. Blaemire's musical SOON will be coming to Signature March 10 to April 26, 2015.
The incredible finale was "A Weekend In the Country" from A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC with the talented Christopher Block, Jean Cantrell, Susan Derry, Erin Driscoll, Maria Egler, Bob McDonald, Donna Migliaccio, Angela Miller, Christoper Mueller, Paul Scanlan, and Stephen Gregory Smith.
It was announced that next season will be Signature's 25th year. Certainly a highlight will be the World Premiere of SIMPLY SONDEIM performing April 2 to 19, 2015 with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.
I will always remember the first time I met Tunick. It was backstage at the Colonial Theatre in Boston in 1968. I had just met lyricist Hal David who along with Burt Bachrach had written the musical PROMISES, PROMISES. David introduced me to the young Tunick, his first Broadway show he ever orchestrated. I related this to Tunick and mentioned I was in the theater the first time the hit song "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" was added WITHOUT any orchestration, just a guitar. The orchestration was added later.
It was quite an evening.