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.

Sketch: My Night WIth Reg, Apollo Theatre starring Matt Bardock, Julian Ovenden, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Lewis Reeves, Richard Cant and Jonathan Broadbent

My Night with Reg

In her five star review, The Evening Standard’s Fiona Mountford said “British drama doesn’t get better than this.”

Following  a sell out season at London’s Donmar Warehouse, Kevin Elyot’s 1994 modern classic, My Night With Reg transferred to the Apollo Theatre for a strictly limited run in January this year.

Robert Hasties’s exquisite 20th anniversary revival will make you laugh and cry, Dominic Cavendish said, “it’s the truest, funniest and most searing play to be found anywhere on the London stage.”

Set in London in the 1980s, it follows a group of gay friends over several years, through the highs and low of their friendship amid the escalating AIDS crisis. The action takes place over three scenes in Guy’s London apartment.

The much discussed ‘Reg’ is conspicuously absent through the play, but is seemingly sleeping with all Guy’s close friends. As Cavendish puts it, he’s, “as pivotal as he is promiscuous”.

The first Act’s comedy as three university pals reunite for a house warming, gives way to emotion and tragedy as the AIDS crisis casts it shadow over the group.

Mountford described the cast as “unbeatable sextet of performances, so sublime,” referring to Matt Bardock (Benny) Julian Ovenden (John) Geoffrey Streatfeild (Daniel) Lewis Reeves (Eric), Richard Cant (Bernie) and Jonathan Broadbent (Guy).

On its premiere Reg won both Olivier and Evening Standard Awards. This production has been nominated for Best Revival in the 2015 Olivier nominations.

I left this sketch at the theatre and it was returned signed by all the cast except Julian, so I waited at the stage door to complete the set in person.

I thanked Richard as I told him of the missing ‘graph. He quipped, “there’s always one”. But it’s the one I got as Julian was more than happy to complete the sextet of sigs.