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Sondheim Will Take Part in Pre-Anyone Can Whistle Chat

Legendary composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim has agreed to participate in a pre-show discussion with Ravinia Festival president and CEO Welz Kauffman before the August 26th concert performance of his Anyone Can Whistle.

The pre-show chat, which will be held in Ravinia's 3,200-seat Pavilion, will begin at 6:45 PM, with the curtain going up on the show at 8 PM. Helmed by Lonny Price and with musical direction by regular Sondheim collaborator Paul Gemignani, the concert will be performed on August 26th and August 27th; the book (by Arthur Laurents) and Sondheim songs used in the sold-out 1995 Carnegie Hall concert of the show will be performed at Ravinia.

Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris will co-star in the musical, which was a 9-performance flop when it opened at the Majestic Theatre in 1964 but has since come to be regarded by many Sondheim fans as a daring, ahead-of-its-time work that tweaked conventionality and conformity. Cerveris will play Hapgood, who comes to town and tries to help the lovely Nurse Fay Apple (McDonald) defeat the cold-blooded, money-obsessed mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper (LuPone), who has taken to shutting up the sane and insane alike as "cookies" in the town asylum. The three stars have previously appeared together in most of the other Sondheim 75 shows at Ravinia; for the past 5 years, the festival has been mounting concert versions of his musicals to culminate with his 75th birthday this year. The previous Ravinia Sondheim shows were Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Passion.

The shows have done so well that Kauffman is now considering staging concert productions of Sondheim shows in upcoming years ."We've asked Steve about extending the project, and he was willing. This series has been a wonderful success for us, adding a new flavor to the mix for the traditional Ravinia audience." He told the Chicago Sun-Times and on the current show added, "I just think that Anyone Can Whistle has a poignant, gorgeous score, and that it's great to go back to such an early work and see what Sondheim was doing in the early 1960s, a very political time."

Anyone Can Whistle's score includes a number of songs that are now Sondheim standards--"With So Little To Be Sure Of," "Me and My Town," "A Parade in Town," "There Won't Be Trumpets," "I've Got You To Lean On," "Everybody Says Don't," and the wistful title song. Angela Lansbury, Lee Remick and Harry Guardino were the shows original stars, and Madeline Kahn, Bernadette Peters and Scott Bakula headlined the Carnegie Hall concert.

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