Sondheim's 90th Birthday Concert Is So Far the Only Celebrity Pandemic Special That Did Not Annoy Me


I appreciate the celebrities for trying to find ways to 1) entertain us and 2) entertain themselves during the pandemic, but so far, I have been personally underwhelmed by their efforts. Perhaps I’m envious of their quarantine mansions, or perhaps my brain is so melted I can only handle watching episodes of The OC I paid for on iTunes. Whatever the case, I’ve mostly avoided the celebrity concerts. But I did tune into Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday concert on Sunday night, and I’m happy to say that it was a delight.

To (virtually) celebrate Sondheim’s milestone, over a dozen theater (and theater-ish) stars sang numbers from Sondheim musicals, offered anecdotes about working with the famed composer, raised money for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), and warmed my pandemic-embittered heart, all from the safety of their bathrooms.

Despite over an hour’s worth of early technical difficulties—part of the production’s charm, if you ask me—Broadway star/host Raul Esparza did eventually manage to pull the whole thing together, with appearances by Mandy Patinkin, Ben Platt, Aaron Tveit, Beanie Feldstein, Nathan Lane, Sutton Foster, Joanna Gleason, Lea Salonga, and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Even Jake Gyllenhaal was there, for some reason. Lin-Manuel Miranda unleashed his most aggressive inner theater kid. Bernadette Peters made me cry. Patti LuPone, blessedly, made an appearance. Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Audra McDonald had a socially distant happy hour during Company’s “The Ladies Who Lunch”:

The whole thing is worth a watch, whether you’re a theater nerd or a secret theater nerd who knows all the lyrics to Oklahoma but would never sing them in front of you, for your sake (hi!). To be perfectly honest, I’m not even all that familiar with Sondheim, though my favorite episode of Documentary Now is the one where they parody Company. Still, considering how fraught theater’s future is, it was nice to see a slice of it for a couple of hours.

Also, everyone’s quarantine hair is atrocious, and I’m here for it.

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