Sondheim at 80 Prom – Royal Albert Hall

So the London love affair with Stephen Sondheim continues, with a gloriously ravishing prom dedicated to the Maestro. Tickets were snapped up within a couple of hours of going on sale and queues for day prom tickets began in the early hours of the morning so there was a huge sense of anticipation in the hall before the concert even began.

With such a prodigious catalogue of work to choose from, there were always going to be some favourites left out. In fact you could fill an entire prom season with Sondheim’s work, let alone a two hour concert.

Following Broadway’s tribute to Sondheim this was very much London’s turn, with many of the country’s finest Sondheim interpreters roll called on stage, though conducted and conceived by Broadways’ David Charles Abell.

Abell’s programme goes for the heart strings, showcasing material from a range of shows that demonstrates the variety of the composer and lyricist’s world. It’s a potent mix of the moving and comedic as we hurtle through 50 years worth of material.

From the belting Broadway Baby and Being Alive, the gloriously dark Ballard of Sweeney Todd, the comedic Frogs and Everybody Ought to Have a Maid and the moving Children will Listen, there is something for everyone in this programme.

There are though some defining moments. Dame Judy Dench and her definitive rendition of Send In The Clowns received the first (of many) major ovation of the evening while Sunday In The Park with George perhaps claimed a spot as Sondheim’s most moving score with Move On and Sunday bringing a tear to even the most hardened eye. Also claiming a right to be resurrected from critical disdain was Merrily We Roll Along. Its anthemic Our Time showing there is much in this score to cherish.

Despite the first class performances of cast and orchestra, in the end there is only one true star of the evening, the composer himself. Looking visibly moved by the outpouring of affection from the audience, Sondheim can be in no doubt that London’s love affair with his work is stronger than ever. For sheer emotion and atmosphere this is an event hard to beat.

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