BWW Feature: Stephen Mosher's Pandemic Playlist Number Nine - The Stephen Sondheim Birthday Edition
Today is Stephen Sondheim's 90th Birthday. There is very little that one can say about Stephen Sondheim that hasn't already been said, so I set out to create a playlist of 90 songs for Sondheim's 90th, determined to not use any singer or song more than once, to only use live performances in New York cabaret rooms, and to get in at least one song from every Sondheim show. I didn't make it. In this playlist some singers and songs get repeated, there is one studio recording, a couple of music videos, and some not-so-cabaret venues -- so I may have stumbled at meeting the criteria... but it sure was fun researching this playlist. I hope everyone enjoys it, and when they are finished watching it, I hope everyone will sing their favorite Sondheim song around the house. I bet some people will sing into their phones and post them online. Today is a day of celebration.
To Mr. Sondheim: Cheers!
1. Dee Hoty is a Tony Award nominated actress much beloved by audiences and colleagues who has worked on stage in New York and all around the country. Beautiful beyond belief with elegance beyond measure, she was the perfect Phyllis Rogers Stone at Papermill Playhouse, as evidenced HERE
2. Norm Lewis is a Tony Award nominated actor with legions of fans who flock to his plays but who REALLY flock to his annual Christmas show at 54 Below. He played on Broadway in Sondheim on Sondheim and everyone can see why he got that gig HERE
3. George Dvorsky, Jason Graae, Debbie Gravitte, Howard McGillin, June Anderson are (mostly) actors who have sung on the New York Cabaret stage, and even though they aren't on a cabaret stage in this video, they are simply magnificent in this legendary QUINTET
4. Andrea Axelrod has had a long career on opera and cabaret stages, a career that is enviable, to say the least. With her wealth of talent and show business experience, she certainly is still HERE
5. Telly Leung is one of Broadway's most exciting leading men, having just finished his 6th Broadway show. His second was "Pacific Overtures" but here he shows that he can handle any of Sondheim's shows and songs, even one difficult enough to require a DIVO
6. Marin Mazzie & Jason Danieley had a long relationship with Stephen Sondheim's music, she having starred on Broadway in "Passion" and he having played "Sunday In the Park With George" in regional theater. Their biggest association with Sondheim was in their legendary duo concerts, where they sang many a Sondheim DUET
7. Isabelle Georges c'est une chanteuse qui vient de France but when she played 54 Below in 2019 she showed that she belongs in New York in the clubs, on Broadway, anywhere someone who needs a singing actress can put her, that's where she belongs, as she shows when singing this CLASSIC
8. Claybourne Elder knows his Sondheim, having played roles in "Road Show," "Do I Hear a Waltz" and "Sunday in the Park With George." Now he is a cast member of the gender-switched "Company." A beautiful actor on any stage, here you can watch him finish a HAT
9. Len Cariou and Victoria Mallory were in the Original Broadway Cast of "A Little Night Music" as husband and wife. Years later at an installment of Sondheim Unplugged, they met again to sing this DUET from the show that they did NOT sing the first time...
10. Julia Murney has one Sondheim show on her resume - "Into the Woods." The mind reels when thinking of everything this powerhouse could do within the Sondheim canon. Thank goodness for the cabaret stages because, there, audiences get to see this GODDESS show a little of what we all dream of.
11. Sam Harris is one of the greatest male vocalists of all time, and though his NYC credits boast no Sondheim shows, his recording of "Move On" is one of the great renditions of the "Sunday in the Park With George" classics. Watch this video to see how Harris can drive you CRAZY
12. George Lee Andrews, Kate Baldwin, Michael Cerveris & Alexander Gemignani all have strong associations with the works of Stephen Sondheim and anybody lucky enough to have seen them in shows like "A Little Night Music" or "Assassins" and "Sweeney Todd" can appreciate this EPIC bit of magic.
13. Cyrille Aimee is a revelation of a jazz singer who released a much-lauded cd of Sondheim songs in 2019 and did a run of shows at Birdland, interpreting his songs in her own way, as can be seen in this VIDEO
14. Seth Sikes is one of the most popular cabaret artists working today, specializing in taking songs that he maybe shouldn't be singing and singing them anyway, as can be seen in this wonderful rendition of a Sondheim CLASSIC
15. Anthony Fett & Jayson Kerr are great friends and members of the cabaret family. Fett is famous for his Christmas show Gayer Than Christmas, and Kerr and that voice of his are sought after for group shows. This writer thinks the twosome needs to team up for their own show. Check them out in this INTERESTING duet.
16. Tonya Pinkins is a Tony Award winning actress who thrives in any medium, though people who have heard her sing are never likely to forget the experience. A cast member of the original "Merrily We Roll Along," Ms. Pinkins also performed in a Sondheim concert "Children And Art" in 2005. A welcome member of any cabaret show, Tonya Pinkins can be seen here, giving a very robust TOAST
17. Hunter Ryan Herdlicka is one of the hardest working actors on the scene and New York audiences have had the thrill of watching his artistry grow over the years; but one look at this early performance of a BEAUTIFUL Sondheim song will show that the gifts he has now, he started with - they've just gotten better and better.
18. Harris Doran, Rob Maitner, Lucia Spina, Gabrielle Stravelli, Kelli Rabke, Joe Goodrich are all cabret room regulars who can always be counted upon to deliver to their audiences. With a few episodes of SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED under their belts, they are definitely experts on what to do with a Sondheim song. See for yourself HERE
19. Rebecca Luker is one of the world's great gifts, giving audiences thrills and all the feels any time she performs in any venue. Having appeared in the off-Broadway production of "Passion" and recorded on the "Unsung Sondheim" CD, Ms. Luker proved that, like anything, her voice makes a Sondheim song even more GORGEOUS
20. Robert Creighton is one of NYC's most popular character actors, as evidenced by the popularity of his little-show-that-could, "Cagney." As tenacious as he is talented, Mr. Creighton is the perfect choice for a little seldom-heard Sondheim HERE
21. Drew Gehling & Laura Osnes are two of Broadway's bright stars who can often be found moonlighting in cabaret shows, and well they should. With their gorgeous singing voices and stellar acting skills, they bring a story intact every time they perform. Just look at this impeccable DUET from "Into the Woods."
22. Nathan Lee Graham has played Broadway, off-Broadway, the West Coast, and many a nightclub on his way to this moment, winning a Grammy award and redefining fashion on his way. With a voice, presence and flair all his own, he is a bona fide one-and-only. See how special he is in this Sondheim MEDLEY
23. Matthew Lee is a versatile acting singer with a wide range of credits from musicals to opera to rock groups. In his show St. Matty's Day he did a totally ORIGINAL rendition of a much-loved Sondheim ballad.
24. Pamela Myers & Harvey Evans are iconic cast members of original Sondheim shows. They were the first people EVER to sing "Another Hundred People" and "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" - so it is a real treat to see them take on one of Sondheim's CLASSICS - after all, they are classics themselves.
25. Melissa Errico is one of today's best interpreters of Sondheim's work, with a cd and a Sondheim show under her belt. Errico seems to have an uncanny ability to reach inside of herself and bring out everything a Sondheim song needs. Here is a particularly UNIQUE and fun performance of a Sondheim song.
26. Gerard Canonico with Charlie Rosen's Broadway Big Band was a special pairing for anyone in the audience on this night at 54 Below. Fans of the six-time Broadway veteran can see him with the popular bandleader doing a BIG arrangement of a Sondheim classic HERE
27. Christina Bianco and Harris Doran are well-known for their versatility in the entertainment arts, Bianco as a stage actress who can do anything, and he as an actor who writes, directs, and produces. This is a spectacular DUET from a particularly moving moment in a Sondheim show.
28. Wendy Scherl is an actress who was fast-tracking until motherhood became an important distraction. After a long hiatus, Scherl returned to the cabaret stage and his been commanding attention ever since. Her beautiful voice and precise interpretive skills make this RECORDING one of the few non-video entries on this playlist.
29. Mike Schwitter's work has put him on Broadway, in tours, and on concert stages around the country. No stranger to big vocals, Schwitter is equally adept at something quiet and heartfelt, as seen HERE in one of Sondheim's tenderest moments.
30. Jason Forbach and Joseph Spieldenner are two of Broadway's young leading men and were profiled by the New York Times when, as Les Mis castmates, they married in 2016, making them the perfect pair for this Sondheim DUET
31. Cynthia Crane is a longtime member of the cabaret community, bringing her talent to the stages of New York and Paris. Always popular with audiences, Crane shows her usual SASS in this special number Mr. Sondheim wrote for film about a famous detective.
32. Steven Lutvak is a Tony Award winning composer who has, often, lent his skills as a singer to many a cabaret show, including this occasion when he performed a Sondheim number from a MOVIE about a famous detective.
33. Linda Benanti and Laura Benanti are loved and respected musical artists, each in their own right, so it seemed perfectly natural when the Tony Award winning Laura began doing shows with her esteemed voice teaching mother, Linda. What more perfect DUO could be dreamed up for this Sondheim song with a message.
34. Sally Darling never stops working, between her stage appearances and her audio book recordings, and she is one of the great cabaret artists, well reviewed over the years, and a Matriarch to the community. HERE she can be seen singing a Sondheim song that fits right in her wheelhouse.
35. Blake Stadnik has many musical theater credits to his name but in 2019 he got the biggest break of his career playing the son of Kate and Toby in the TV show "This Is Us." The character he plays has many things in common with the man that he is, not the least of which is a CHARMING talent as a singer.
36. Matthew Scott and Kirsten Scott are a pair of Broadway Babies, with a slew of credits, including his stint in "Sondheim on Sondheim" and hers in "Follies." The Broadway couple bring their love to a LUSH mashup of two tunes to a legendary but much-loved Sondheim flop.
37. Marnie Klar is one of cabaret's bright lights, always garnering rave reviews and audience response. Her work as a theater actor always informs her musical storytelling, as evidenced in a FABULOUS performance of one of Sondheim's more quirky songs.
38. Levi Kreis is a Tony Award winner whose musical work usually lends itself to a more rock and roll feel. In his concerts and cabaret appearances, though, he proves that there is no musical task to which he is not equal, a fact clearly on display in this BEAUTIFUL Sondheim ballad.
39. Krystina Alabado and Aaron C. Finley are currently cast members on hiatus from "Mean Girls" and "Moulin Rouge" but the gifted performers are always ready to lend a hand when creating a club act in Manhattan. Here they are bringing their A Game to a HAUNTING Sondheim duet.
40. Amy Jo Jackson works as one of cabaret's great female performers. With skills and a sense of adventure, she will always surprise and thrill audiences, a fact clearly noted in this AMAZING version of a Sondheim epic written for a man, but tackled by this woman.
41. Max von Essen is one of Broadway's dreamiest leading men, and it isn't just his physical charms, it's in the wealth of talent he brings to everything, like he does with this LOVELY and longing Sondheim ballad.
42. Laura Osnes and Santino Fontana are Broadway stars and former colleagues, though the Cinderella she played was not Sondheim's Cinderella. Indeed, the beautiful young star has no Sondheim on her resume, while Tony winner Fontana made his Broadway debut in a Sondheim show. There's still time, though for these two CHUMS to tackle a famous Sondheim couple...
43. Lisa Graye has done a Sondheim show but not a Sondheim lyric, dancing in the West Side Story ballet, but she would love to play The Witch one day. See Lisa take on a full Sondheim song in this sublime, quietly epic movie THEME
44. Ari Axelrod can certainly handle a Sondheim lyric, as seen HERE but the time will come when he takes on an entire Sondheim score and this writer predicts it will be Sunday in the Park with George.
45. Samantha Pollino and Hudson Loverro each have two Broadway credits and some impressive out-of-town credits, which is quite a feat for two people of such youth. It takes something a little special to take an ICONIC song written for a senior and turn it into a tune for the Kiddie Korner. Well done!
46. Gerrilyn Sohn left her acting career behind years ago but came back to it last year with a much-praised cabaret show, "Something Cool." HERE is one of the highlights of the show, a song that proves that, while away from the business, those acting skills stayed intact.
47. Benjamin Love is a young actor pursuing musical theater, and though he has no Sondheim shows on his resume, he did sing for Sondheim himself, when Mr. S. was presented with an honor from a prestitgious St. Louis association. At that event Mr. Love took on "Move On" - here, see him do something a little more UPBEAT
48. Melissa Errico & Ryan Silverman were the pair to take on the first New York revival of an emotional, sophisticated, intricate Sondheim score, and the result was breathtaking. See them recreate their first moments in that show HERE
50. Derek Klena is one of Broadway's new leading men. Going from one show to the next, Klena is taking his place among the men who are making today's Broadway. Here, he shows why he is on the fast track with a Sondheim song every TENOR wants to sing.
51. Kaye Ballard, Donna McKechnie, Liliane Montevecchi were all part of the iconic Papermill Playhouse "Follies" and each of these SPECIAL women were a part of the New York show business family, with work reaching to all the stages of the city, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and cabaret. Two of them are gone, but Ms. McKechnie is still going strong, with a new show opening soon. Enjoy this look at the ladies in action.
52. Ann Kittredge is one of cabaret's current leading ladies, and why not? Every time the statuesque beauty steps onto a cabaret stage she brings a case full of stories with her, stories that run the gamut. HERE is a story for which she is ideally cast - one wishes there were a chance to see her play the role in a production of this Sondheim show.
53. Joshua Stephen Kartes is one of cabaret's leading musical directors and arrangers. Here, see Mr. Kartes prove that those who sit behind the piano playing for the singers can also DO, if given the opportunity.
54. Sondheimas Congregational Singing is a group show that reveres Stephen Sondheim to point of being religion, which basically makes them most of the musical theater lovers of the world. Their shows always pleased audiences and, if you look, you might see some faces in this FUN crowd that are becoming quite famous.
55. Krysta Rodriguez is taking her place as a Broadway diva, on the big stage, on the little screen, on the cabaret circuit - she's everywhere, and she should be, because she is the real deal. See why when she does this famous song CUT from a famous flop.
56. John Riddle is on his way up to the top. With significant shows on his resume, the young leading man brings a passion and beautiful singing voice to every song he sings. How lucky 54 Below audiences were to hear him sing this Sondheim NUMBER that not everyone knows.
57. Andrea Marcovicci is cabaret royalty, having reigned over the kingdom for many a year. Now working exclusively on the West Coast, Ms. Marcovicci still thrives in her work. Here she takes on a Sondheim DUET perfectly suited to her, with a little help from fellow cabaret star Maude Maggert.
58. Justin Patterson is an actor with 7 Broadway shows to his credit, including one Sondheim. An accomplished photographer as well, Mr. Patterson fortunately shares all his talents, as seen HERE in the song he sang on Broadway in 2010
59. Joseph B. Strickland works doing musical theater all over the country but made a happy stop at The Laurie Beechman for an installment of Broadway Sessions to perform THIS lovely ballad from "Company"
60. Barbara Tirrell is an actor who has worked on stage and on television, including The Great White Way. Her way with a song is infectious, especially in this FUN version of a number from "Company" that was originally sung by a legend.
61. George Abud's resume is an impressive one and this actor who never stops working has played Broadway twice in important shows. Here he shows how to take a famous song by a famous composer and make it completely ORIGINAL - like him: completely original.
62. Claybourne Elder & Shanna Jones are two actors who know how to take risks, playing heady roles like George in SITPWG and Diana in Next to Normal. Their risk taking really pays off in this FABULOUS performance of a Sondheim song at 54 Below.
63, Olivia Broome is an actor with a long resume of musical theater, though not one Sondheim show. That didn't stop hers from being the most interesting and nuanced cabaret performance on Youtube of this ICONIC song that everyone, female or male, wants to sing.
64. Jack Noseworthy has a long history on the musical stage, though his resume boasts no Sondheim show, a shame, for his cabaret appearances would indicate that he should. Watch him BELT out this famous Sondheim tune.
65. Jinkx Monsoon is a Lady and a Star, working non-stop since RuPaul's Drag Race put her in the International spotlight. One of the most gifted Queens on the circuit, Ms. Monsoon can put her own SPIN on every musical number.
66. Ben Lohrberg may be Minneapolis based but it didn't stop him from selling out his New York City cabaret debut at Feinstein's/54 Below. With three Sondheim shows on his resume, Mr. Lohrberg may indicate he has a muse in the legend. It will be interesting to watch where Lohrberg's career goes next. Here he is at 54 Below recreating his role in one of the GREATEST musicals ever created.
67. Molly Pope is not just one of the most frequently working cabaret artists in the business, she is one of the most individual. She is also a Sondheim aficionado. See here just why she is not called a cabaret singer, she is a CABARETTIST
68. Charles Busch is on a continual path of growth. Spending his life creating art of many varieties, he has recently been getting a lot of attention for his one man shows, in which all can see the inimitable gifts that have made him the LEGEND that he is.
69. Robbie Rozelle & Scottie Rowell are two men at the top of their game, something that takes years to make happen. Now living their dreams in the business, four years ago they were making merry the audiences of 54 Below with this FASCINATING mashup of two very different Sondheim songs.
70. Lauren White's acting career was never anything but successful, but when she started singing jazz, she found a voice and an audience that has paved the way for her being one of the most memorable performers in the business today. Just look at the WAY she handles a Sondheim song many have loved and many have sung.
71. Andy Mientus is one of the most beloved young actors in the business today. His work on stages big and small, and on television has given way to more opportunities to create, and when he creates, the world is a happier place. His presence on social media keeps the fans happy and the chance to look on Youtube for an OPUS like this is one that cannot be missed.
72. Nick Cartell & Josh Davis may have been working together on Les Mis for a while, but this appearance at 54 Below shows that they could easily duet on any song by any composer. Here is one of the PRETTIEST songs ever written, blissfully performed by two theatrical pros.
73. Lianne Marie Dobbs is special. Her shows, her style, her performance of even one song in a group show are all so unique and so inidividually informed that she is able to find no pockets and new facets of every song. Even the LEGENDARY ones.
74. Edward Miskie brought his beautiful singing voice to a recent production of SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED and, knowing that this playlist would be incomplete without some version of this song, I reached out to S.U. creator Phil Geoffrey Bond who provided me with this lovely, albiet expurgated video of Mr. Miskie's DELIGHTFUL performance.
75. Vodka Stinger & John Jordan are two masters (or one master and one mistress) of their fields but for this appearance Ms. Stinger cajoled her coifure-creating friend onto the stage of 54 Below. The result was a stunning DUET by two friends who, clearly, adore one another - even if they are singing a song in which they don't.
76. Shoshana Bean has become one of the biggest and most popular singing sensations on the scene. With Broadway credits and concerts around the world, Bean has amassed a fanbase that is considerable and enviable. Even a big star like Shoshana can still have a DREAM
77. Jim Poulos has a resume that runs that gamut from Broadway musicals like "Rent" to Shakespeare plays performed all over the country. With his versatility and this beautiful vocal ability, seen in a Sunday in the Park with George MASHUP, it's no wonder he is so frequently performing. This is a lucky actor.
78. Clara Cox & Lauren Nicole Chapman are two young actors on the rise in New York City, working tours and working the Broadway, and living the dream. It must have been a dream to do this rare TAKE on a famed Sondheim duet that wasn't QUITE designed for them to sing.
79. Brianna Sauvage is an artist with an ambiguous social footprint, so I can provide only limited information on the actor who, given her Youtube presence, spends a lot of time on the cabaret stage. Without benefit of any other intel on the lady from the internet, this writer can only go by performances like this EPIC one, done with a lyric sheet (!), and it's enough to say: sign me up.
80. Aaron Lazar played Broadway in "A Little Night Music" so he has a good connection to and understanding of the Maestro's artistry. It doesn't have to be a big and bold number like Count Malcolm's "In Praise of Women." Just look at Mr. Lazar showing a little tenderness in this early Sondheim BALLAD ... and a little boldness.
81. Actor Therapy NYC is a training program created by Tony Winner Lindsay Mendez and Ryan Scott Oliver. The popular education program always has a showcase of the works of their talented students and it can be seen that the program works in this BOUYANT performance at 54 Below.
82. Jennifer Diamond is a virtuosa of a singing actor who works in Manhattan and in regional theater but the most exciting thing is to see her on a nightclub stage playing Jen Diamond. Her show at Joe's Pub featured two Sondheim songs that are only seen online in expurgated videos, and since a little of this Diamond is not enough, both videos can be seen HERE and HERE
83. Zac Fadler is a singing actor who works as a server in the popular nightclub The Green Room 42, where one can regularly find their series Serving You Sondheim, in which the servers do the performing. In one of their installments Mr. Fadler used one of the prettiest voices ever to sing one of the PRETTIEST Sondheim songs.
84. Cacophony Daniels, Anita Belltone & Shuneeda Comb are three Ladies with a huge talent and a great GIMMICK - just press play and sit back and enjoy.
85. Donna Murphy is a bona fide Broadway star and one of the greatest actresses ever known to the masses. The Two-time Tony Award recipient has had success working in every area of the business... except cabaret. Though her appearance at 54 Below in "Marin Mazzie's Sunflower Power Hour" was one where she alluded to some point in the future maybe doing a show, her small venue appearances have always been as a one-song guest artist. Here she is in a not-quite cabaret setting doing some FLAWLESS Sondheim that she performed in real life at New York City Center.
86. Joseph C. Townsend's star is definitely on the rise. In four months this man whose Instagram page reads "Tiny man. Big Voice." has brought his big voice to group shows at The Green Room 42, Birdland, and 54 Below. Recently he subbed in at Serving You Sondheim with 24 hours notice, and the song he learned overnight will give you LIFE
87. Liz Callaway and Ann Hampton Callaway are sisters and whether performing solo acts or sister acts, the two golden-voiced Callaways bring to their audiences absolute delirium. In this moment the two musical greats take one of Sondheim's most beloved and magnificent creations and, together, the three create absolute PERFECTION
88. Karen Mason. The name says it all. She is among the greatest singing actors in the business, with a voice that is beyond compare. Her incomparable ability with interpretation brings every song to life, which is why this DIVA has played this role and sung this song many times.
89. Jeremy Jordan is the IT man of today's theatrical world. With his work on Broadway and television he has built a fan base bigger than a person could imagine. His generosity in bringing his talent to the cabaret rooms is greatly appreciated by all who get to see the magnificence of what he has to offer. By the way, HERE IT IS
90. Marquee Five lends their five part harmony to the song that all artists think of when Sondheim is on their mind. There is no way to listen to any version of this bit of ARTISTRY without ending up in tears. That is why I have saved it for the last.
As we celebrate Stephen Sondheim's 90th Birthday Phil Geoffrey Bond, creator and curator of SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED sent me this video TOAST to Mr. Sondheim and all who love him and his work. What a life, what a legacy. Thank you, Mr. Sondheim.