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LuPone, McDonald et al. Honor Sondheim at Ravinia Birthday Gala, 7/31

Ravinia Festival's 2010 Gala Benefit Evening will honor the 80th birthday of the great American composer Stephen Sondheim with a program featuring an incredible lineup of soloists who have been featured in Ravinia's Sondheim celebrations since they began in 2001. The evening reunites the on-stage and behind-the-scenes talent that created Ravinia's acclaimed productions of Sondheim's shows, several of which have gone onto other cities.

This evening of Sondheim's "greatest hits," starring Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, George Hearn and Michael Cerveris, will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 31. Conductor Paul Gemignani will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lonny Price will direct. The program will be selected from highlights of past Ravinia Festival presentations of Sondheim shows including "Worst Pies," "Epiphany," "Little Priest" and "Pretty Women" from Sweeney Todd; "You Must Meet My Wife," "Send in the Clowns," "Every Day A Little Death" and "In Praise of Women" from A Little Night Music; "Happiness" and "I Read" from Passion; "Finishing the Hat," "Color and Light" and "Children and Art" from Sunday in the Park with George; "Anyone Can Whistle" from Anyone Can Whistle; and "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Gypsy. In addition to the permanent screens in the pavilion, this concert will also feature screens on the lawn. Hosted by the Ravinia Women's Board, the annual Gala is the only performance fundraiser benefiting the not-for-profit festival, including its REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs.

This special black-tie event will begin with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres on the lawn at 5 p.m. Guests will then be escorted to the 7 p.m. performance, which will have no intermission. Immediately following the concert, dinner will be served in the Gala Marquee on the north lawn.

Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman launched the Sondheim 75 series in 2001 to honor the most influential music theater composer of the past three decades with an annual concert presentation of his work, culminating in 2005 with Sondheim's 75 th birthday. The series, including Sweeney Todd (2001), A Little Night Music (2002), Passion (2003), Sunday in the Park with George (2004) and Anyone Can Whistle (2005) won rave reviews. Ravinia also presented shows with lyrics written bySondheim, including West Side Story and the phenomenal first teaming of Patti LuPone and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Gypsy. LuPone would take the role of Mama Rose to Broadway, winning the Tony Award and acknowledging Ravinia on the awards telecast. The festival's performance of Passion inspired the Lincoln Center's performance to feature Ravinia's lead cast of LuPone, Cerveris and McDonald and was later broadcast Live Nationally on PBS. First performed in New York with the New York Philharmonic and produced by Kauffman, the production of Sweeney Todd, which starred LuPone and McDonald in their first Sondheim roles and well as Hearn, traveled to San Francisco, where it was telecast nationally on PBS and nominated for an Emmy. Sondheim himself has also visited the festival for these productions and participated in pre-concert talks.

The 2010 Gala Benefit Evening is being overseen by the Women's Board committee headed by Gala Co-chairmen Susan Elliott and Marcie Stein. Sarah Barden, Jean Berghoff and Lucy Minorare the Gala Benefactor co-chairmen. Jane D. Casper is the Women's Board chairman. The Trustee Benefactor co-chairmen are John Edwardson, Kelly Grier and Avy Stein.The Gala concert is sponsored in memory of Howard A. Stotler and also sponsored by a gift from Steve and Tom Safran, in memory of their parents, Adda and Paul Safran, on what would have been Adda's 100 th birthday. The Gala Benefit dinner is sponsored by Aon Corporation, and the cocktail reception sponsor is BMO Capital Markets.

Tickets for the black-tie Women's Board Gala dinner, including priority seating for the concert, are available to individual benefactors for $750. Tables of 10 are sold at tiered prices from $7,500 to $50,000. For more information or to purchase tickets to the benefit dinner, please call 847-266-5045 or visit Concert tickets only are $80-$125 for pavilion and $25 for lawn and available for purchase exclusively at Ravinia Festival is a not-for-profit organization.

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