NEW YORK – Josh Groban, Nathan Lane and Jake Gyllenhaal honored composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim on Sunday with an online 90th birthday concert that was stuffed with his songs, but delayed by technical difficulties.
The starry special called “Take Me to the World” featured performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Kelli O’Hara, Lea Salonga, Judy Kuhn, Katrina Lenk, Aaron Tveit, Laura Benanti, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters, who closed out the show with a triumphant version of “No One Is Alone” without any accompanying music.
Sondheim actually turned 90 on March 22, but plans to celebrate were taken online after Broadway shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The celebration on Sunday night coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of Sondheim’s Broadway show “Company,” and served as a fundraiser for Artists Striving to End Poverty.
Sutton Foster was the first to sing, picking “There Won’t Be Trumpets” and her young daughter, Emily, wished Sondheim a happy birthday at the end. Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald and Meryl Streep each downed glasses of booze to team up for a raucous “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Neil Patrick Harris sang “The Witch’s Rap" and thanked Sondheim: “He made me love theater, he made me love music, he made me love rhythm,” he said. Harris’ children also played a role in the performance, bowing at the end.
Jason Alexander of “Seinfeld” fame told of being challenged by the composer, while Annaleigh Ashford and Gyllenhaal reunited for a song from their 2017 Broadway partnership, the Sondheim revival of “Sunday in the Park With George.”
There was a duet from Beanie Feldstein and Ben Platt, who sang “It Takes Two.” Victor Garber recalled raptly hearing “Johanna” from “Sweeney Todd” for the first time. In a video from a field with his dog, Mandy Patinkin said of Sondheim: “He simply turns my darkness into light."
There was an intimate vibe to the event, with many musicians and singers dressed in T-shirts, minimal makeup and in front of simple backdrops.