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Streep, LuPone Among Stars Slated for Sondheim's Birthday Concert

Stephen Sondheim

The gay composer-lyricist is "greatness personified," says Raul Esparza, who will host the show.

Everybody rise: Social distancing won't keep an all-star cast from celebrating Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday with a livestreamed concert.

Raul Esparza, who played Bobby in the 2006 revival of Sondheim's Company, will host the event, Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, to stream Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern on Broadway.com and its YouTube channel. It will feature Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O'Hara, Stephen Schwartz, Katrina Lenk, and many more.

Viewing the concert is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit Artists Striving to End Poverty. The organization "connects performing and visual artists with youth from underserved communities in the U.S. and around the world," Entertainment Weekly notes.

"The world is in a hard place, and we are all searching for something great," Esparza said in a Broadway.com post. "Well, Stephen Sondheim is greatness personified. So we've assembled a group of people who love Steve and have worked with Steve and have been inspired by Steve to sing his music and share some joy and some heartache together. We may be far from Broadway right now, but Broadway is never far from us. Besides, Stephen Sondheim turned 90. How many times do you get to be 90? 11? So come on, say it, get it over with, come on, quick ... happy birthday."

Esparza is a veteran interpreter of Sondheim's music and lyrics, having appeared not only in Company but in the Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration productions of Sunday in the Park With George and Merrily We Roll Along. He also headlined City Center's Encores! productions of Anyone Can Whistle and Road Show. Lenk was cast as Bobbie, a female version of Company's protagonist, in a Broadway production that was set to open March 22 for Sondheim's actual birthday. But it has been delayed, as all Broadway theaters have closed due to the current health situation.

The concert will be directed by Paul Wontorek, with musical direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the creator of ASTEP. "Sondheim shows us the depth of our hearts, the complexity of our minds, and all that it is possible to accomplish through his brilliant marriage of music and storytelling," Campbell said on Broadway.com. "Artists Striving to End Poverty aims to make sure that all children living in challenging situations have the opportunity to be transformed by the making of art. In my personal experience, encountering Stephen Sondheim's music has helped these children imagine an entirely different life and future for themselves. Linking Sondheim and ASTEP together during this very difficult time made perfect sense to us. Children and art."

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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