Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall

Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall cover art

"And the truth is that I don't care/If it's love or what/This is all that we've got/So let's give it a shot"

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Performed by the American Theatre Orchestra
Written by David Thompson
Directed by Scott Ellis
Musical Direction by Paul Gemignani
Orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick, Don Sebesky, Jason Robert Brown, and others
Choreography by Susan Stroman
Performed June 10, 1992, at Carnegie Hall

Main Performers

Kevin Anderson

"A Weekend in the Country"

George Lee Andrews

"Waiting for the Girls Upstairs," "A Weekend in the Country"

Ron Baker



"I Never Do Anything Twice"

Harolyn Blackwell

"Green Finch and Linnett Bird"

Peter Blanchet


Boys Choir of Harlem

"Our Time"

Betty Buckley

"Children Will Listen"

Patrick Cassidy

"The Ballad of Booth"

Glenn Close

"Send In the Clowns"

Daisy Eagan

"Broadway Baby"

Victor Garber

"The Ballad of Booth"

Jerry Hadley

Symphonic Sondheim: Sweeney Todd, "With So Little to Be Sure Of"

Bill Irwin

Evening Introduction, Symphonic Sondheim: Comedy Tonight
Mark Jacoby
"Getting Married Today," "Pretty Lady," "A Weekend in the Country"

Michael Jeter

"Waiting for the Girls Upstairs," "Love, I Hear"

Madeline Kahn 

"Getting Married Today"

Beverly Lambert

"A Weekend in the Country"

Jeanne Lehman

"Getting Married Today"

Dorothy Loudon

"Losing My Mind/You Could Drive a Person Crazy"

Patti LuPone

"Being Alive"

Carol Meyer


Liza Minnelli

"Water Under the Bridge," "Back in Business," "Old Friends"

Maureen Moore

"A Weekend in the Country"

Richard Muenz

"Someone Is Waiting"

James Naughton

"Waiting for the Girls Upstairs," "Live Alone and Like It"

Carolann Page

"With So Little to Be Sure Of"

Eugene Perry

Symphonic Sondheim: Sweeney Todd, "Pretty Lady"

Herbert Perry

Symphonic Sondheim: Sweeney Todd, "Pretty Lady"

Bernadette Peters

"Not a Day Goes By," "Sunday"

Billy Stritch

"Anyone Can Whistle," "Water Under the Bridge," "Back in Business"

Susan Terry

"A Weekend in the Country"

Bronwyn Thomas


The Tonics

"Good Thing Going"

Blythe Walker


Karen Ziemba

"Sooner or Later"

CD Summary

This concert was a combined celebration of Carnegie Hall and the music of Stephen Sondheim. An all-star lineup performed material from Sondheim-only productions from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to Assassins, and there are hints of his collaborative work here and there. In addition, there are several songs from movie scores (notably Dick Tracy), as well as one song meant for the unreleased Singing Out Loud that I don't believe appears anywhere else.


Disc 1:

  1. Symphonic Sondheim: Sweeney Todd (Johanna/Pretty Women)
  2. Evening Introduction
  3. Loveland/Getting Married Today
  4. Waiting for the Girls Upstairs/Love, I Hear/Live Alone and Like It
  5. Someone Is Waiting/Symphonic Sondheim: Barcelona
  6. Being Alive
  7. Good Thing Going
  8. Losing My Mind/You Could Drive a Person Crazy
  9. Our Time/Children Will Listen
  10. Anyone Can Whistle
  11. Water Under the Bridge
  12. Back in Business

Disc 2:

  1. Symphonic Sondheim: Comedy Tonight
  2. Sooner or Later
  3. Pretty Lady
  4. Green Finch and Linnet Bird
  5. The Ballad of Booth
  6. Broadway Baby
  7. I Never Do Anything Twice
  8. With So Little to Be Sure Of
  9. Not a Day Goes By
  10. Remember/A Weekend in the Country
  11. Send in the Clowns
  12. Old Friends
  13. Sunday


This is one of the seriously classic Sondheim concert recordings, sporting one of the most impressive lineups of musical theatre performers you'll find anywhere (arguably surpassed only by the cast of Hey, Mr. Producer!). Where else are you going to find Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Dorothy Loudon, and Madeline Kahn in one place, singing some of the best songs ever written for the musical stage? Not to mention Harolyn Blackwell, Karen Ziemba, Victor Garber, Glenn Close, etc. etc.... We're talking instantly and eminently memorable. There isn't a clinker in the lot, and there are a ton of classic performances. Everyone will have their favorites. Mine are Loudon's hilarious star turn on her intertwined songs (and she's also the first person to substitute "drag" for "fag" in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," which garnered her quite a bit of applause); Buckley's gorgeous "Children Will Listen"; the rousing Minnelli/Stritch "Back in Business"; "The Ballad of Booth," sung by the two actors who created the roles; an impeccably performed "Weekend in the Country"; the ravishing finale, when everyone comes out to sing "Sunday"; and my favorite, the naughtiest song in the Sondheim canon, "I Never Do Anything Twice" (from The Seven Percent Solution), sung almost a capella by the BETTY trio. (I embarrassed the hell out of some poor folks in a car next to mine by blasting this song, and singing along, at a red light; I saw the window of the other car quickly close after "And proffered us a riding crop and chains.") Oh, and Ziemba's "Sooner or Later" absolutely beats the CRAP out of Madonna's pathetic version on her Breathless album. I'm not partial to Kahn's "Getting Married Today," but I know a bunch of people who think this is the definitive version of the song, and I also found out that she wasn't the original choice to sing it--don't know who was, actually--and was brought in at the eleventh hour, which is why she sings it relatively slowly.

The song selection is pretty creative (though can we PLEASE someday have a concert where they DON'T sing "Send in the Clowns"?) and grouped in small thematic bunches, though in some cases you have to guess what the theme is supposed to be. I wish they'd found something else from Pacific Overtures to go along with "Pretty Lady," but I was delighted with all the movie songs, which are not commonly performed, especially "I Never Do Anything Twice," which appears only on Side by Side by Sondheim and Sondheim Tonight. You can't even get Sondheim's Dick Tracy songs on the movie soundtrack (which is out of print anyway) because of artistic jealousy on Danny Elfman's part--well, if I were a hack like him, I'd force off the Sondheim songs too, to prevent unfavorable comparisons--so these recordings are comparatively rare.

The creative team contains two names who in 1992 were pretty unfamiliar but who have since made their marks on musical theatre: Susan Stroman and Jason Robert Brown.

CD Packaging

Classy booklet. The cover lists all the performers, and folds out to reveal nine color photos; the back cover has a big picture of Sondheim flanked by all the performers, and folds out to reveal eight more color photos. The song list includes song titles, sources, and lengths; singer; orchestrator or arranger, when applicable; and dance arranger, when applicable. Appropriate technical details and individuals are mentioned, as are the gypsies in the ensemble and "Broadway Chorus." Several pages are devoted to a description of the event by Thompson (one of the production's conceivers, along with Ellis, Gemignani, and Stroman). And then, oh glorious, the lyrics for every song, with indications of when songs were re-arranged from the original compositions. Finally, the American Theatre Orchestra musicians are identified, along with more technical people.


It's hard to imagine a serious Sondheim fan not already owning this set, but if you are one and you don't, you should. If you're a casual or burgeoning Sondheim fan, this set would be a good way for you to familiarize yourself with a cross-section of his songs. (That's what happened to me, BTW--I was a fan but not a fanatic when I got this set, and had heard his "good" musicals but not his flops. On the strength of the songs in this set, especially those from Merrily We Roll Along, I began to get everything.) If you're a fan of an individual performer in the concert, I can assure you that you'll like what you hear, and it's probably worth it to get the set even if you only want the song(s) sung by the performer.

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