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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Sondheim: The Birthday Concert' [Blu-ray]
(Stephen Sondheim, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, et al / Blu ray / NR / 2010 / IMAGE Ent.)

Overview: For the master composer and lyricist’s 80th birthday, scores of the musical theater’s brightest stars gathered to perform more than two dozen sensational numbers from Sondheim’s unsurpassed canon. Many of these enduring songs are rarely heard and several are performed by the original Broadway cast members.

Blu ray Verdict: From Broadway’s glorious, yet extraordinary in musical wealth young man to its beloved aging monarch, Stephen Sondheim - an American composer and lyricist for stage and film - celebated his (at the time) forthcoming 80th birthday (March 22) with a bevy of friends and others.

Culled together as one at Avery Fisher Hall on those two wondrous nights (15-16), it was a packed house that welcomed the ensemble cast to the stage, time after time after time. Indeed, many of these enduring songs are rarely heard and several wwere performed this grand night by the original Broadway cast members!

It was hosted by Frasier's David Hyde Pierce, and with Stephen Sondheim’s longtime collaborator Paul Gemignani conducting the New York Philharmonic, these incredible two nights (March 15–16, 2010) caught all these performances live: "America" (Dancers– West Side Story), "Something’s Coming" (Alexander Gemingnani– West Side Story), "We’re Gonna Be Alright" (Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley– Do I Hear a Waltz?), "Don’t Laugh" (Victoria Clark– Hot Spot), "Johanna"(Nathan Gunn– Sweeney Todd), "You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow" and "Love Will See Us Through" (Matt Cavenaugh, Jenn Colella, Laura Osnes, Bobby Steggert– Follies), "Too Many Mornings" (Nathan Gunn, Audra McDonald– Follies), "The Road You Didn’t Take" (John McMartin– Follies), "It Takes Two" (Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien– Into the Woods), "Growing Up" (Jim Walton– Merrily We Roll Along), "Finishing the Hat" (Mandy Patinkin– Sunday in the Park with George), "Move On" (Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters– Sunday in the Park with George), "Pretty Women"(Michael Cerveris, George Hearn– Sweeney Todd), "A Little Priest" (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Patti LuPone– Sweeney Todd), “Theme from ‘Reds’” with Pas De Deux (NY Philharmonic, Two ABT Dancers Maria and Blaine), "So Many People" (Laura Benanti– Saturday Night), "Beautiful Girls" (David Hyde Pierce), "Ladies Who Lunch" (Patti LuPone– Company), "Losing My Mind" (Marin Mazzie– Follies), "The Glamorous Life" (Audra McDonald– A Little Night Music), "Leave You" (Donna Murphy– Follies), "Not a Day Goes By" (Bernadette Peters– Merrily We Roll Along), "I’m Still Here" (Elaine Stritch– Follies), "Sunday" (Broadway Chorus– Sunday in the Park with George), "Happy Birthday" (All Cast).

This is a totally magical Blu ray to own. David Hyde Pierce was a marvelous emcee, and the cast was obviously star-studded. Only Stephen Sondheim's birthday could bring these amazing performers together. Worth it just for the overwhelming finale; I don't think there was a dry eye in the audience.

In addition, Image has also recently released, through PS Classics, the original Broadway cast recording of SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM, starring Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat in a lavish 2-CD set. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.77:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.