Saturday, April 13, 2024

Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald Headline Sondheim Tribute That Started Late, Had Glitches, Was Worth It


The show must go on and it did, but what a mess. The much anticipated 90th birthday salute to Stephen Sondheim was supposed to start at 8pm on’s YouTube channel. By 8:15 it still hadn’t begun, but 100,000 were waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

There were glitches, no sound, host Raul Esparza needed an SVU unit to untangle what looked like a disaster. I gave up at 9pm and watched the “Homeland” finale on Showtime. So glad I did, it was excellent.

Just as “Homeland” started, so, finally did the Sondheim. It was worth the wait. Star after star killed it, singing Sondheim’s great songs from home. Some had thought about their setting and lighting and sound, some did not. Oh well. You have to average it out.

Of course the big show stopping number was Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Audra McDonald pouring booze and singing “Ladies Who Lunch.” It took three superstars to equal Elaine Stritch. I know he’s not here, but Mike Nichols had to direct that segment. Somehow he did it. Just wonderful. It’s at minus – 23:35 on the tape.

There are all the big stars– Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters, everyone, even Steven Spielberg. Donna Murphy gives a stunning “Send in the Clowns.” But I loved Katrina Lenk playing guitar and singing “Joanna,” from “Sweeney Todd.” It’s at minus 1:58.

Congrats to the people who put this together. What a night! Michael Jordan doc, “Homeland” finale, and this extraordinary event. Happy birthday SS!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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