Drawing: Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends tribute concert 3 May 2022

Drawing of Stephen Sondheim signed by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Maria Friedman, Dame Judy Dench, Petula Clark, Julia McKenzie, Michael Ball, Bernadette Peters, Sian Philips, Bonnie Langford, Janie Dee, Gary Wilmot, Clive Rowe, Charlie Stemp, Michael Xavier, Jon Robyns, Damien Lewis, Rob Brydon, Haydn Gwynn and Julian Ovenden, from the Stephen Sonheim Old Friends Tribute Concert, London

British producer and theatre impresario, Sir Cameron Mackintosh invited many of the late Stephen Sondheim’s old friends to join him in celebrating the great composer’s extraordinary talents and legacy at the West End theatre named after him. Considered one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century musical theatre, Stephen passed away at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut last November at the age of 91, before he was able to attend the official naming ceremony of the Shaftesbury Avenue theatre.

The tribute concert STEPHEN SONDHEIM’S OLD FRIENDS (from a number in 1981’s MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG) on 3 May, directed by Maria Friedman was also simulcast at the nearby Prince Edward Theatre, due to ticket demand. All proceeds went to the Stephen Sondheim Foundation. In his five star review for the Guardian, Mark Lawson wrote, “A glorious all-star memorial service… Stephen Sondheim was so vast a talent that London required two theatres to remember him… each of the (41) tunes a eulogy.”

While I wasn’t unable to get (or indeed fit) every artist, I did manage 19 from the glittering line-up, who respectfully signed around the pencil portrait of the great man; Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Maria Friedman, Dame Judy Dench, Petula Clark, Julia McKenzie, Michael Ball, Bernadette Peters, Sian Philips, Bonnie Langford, Janie Dee, Gary Wilmot, Clive Rowe, Charlie Stemp, Michael Xavier, Jon Robyns, Damien Lewis, Rob Brydon, Haydn Gwynn and Julian Ovenden.

Drawing: Bernadette Peters

Bernadette Peters

Broadway Royalty Bernadette Peters returned to the London concert stage for the first time in 18 years at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday..

Critic Mark Shenton wrote, “The New York legend lives up to her exalted status,” in his four-star review in The Stage.

Considered one of the most critically acclaimed Broadway performers, Bernadette debuted on the New York stage at the age of ten. She is regarded as the foremost interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim, a collaborations which began 32 years ago when she played Dot in the original production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.

Nominated for seven Tony awards, winning two and nine Drama Desk Awards, winning three, Bernadette has also appeared in 33 films and TV movies. My first memory of her was the 1976 role as the voluptuous nightclub sensation Vilma Kaplan in Mel Brook’s SILENT MOVIE for which she was nominated for her first of three Golden Globe nominations, winning for PENNIES FROM HEAVEN in 1981. She has also garnered three Emmy Award noms.

I drew this montage sketch of Bernadette which she signed for me at the Festival Hall.