Sondheim's Old Friends
Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Gielgud Theatre, London
Cast: Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, Christine Allado, Clare Burt, Janie Dee, Damian Humbley, Bradley Jaden, Bonnie Langford, Gavin Lee, Jason Pennycooke, Joanna Riding, Jeremy Secomb, Jac Yarrow, Marley Fenton, and Beatrice Penny-Touré

Celebrating the life and work of the great Stephen Sondheim, Old Friends won the Best Theatre Event at the 2023 WhatsonStage Awards. Now by popular demand, audiences will have another chance to see the never to be forgotten and one of the most talked about theatrical events of the year.

At the end of 2021, we lost one of the theatre greats, Stephen Sondheim. From Sweeney Todd, to A Little Night Music, to Into the Woods, to Company; he graced the musical theatre world with music that will forever have a home in theatres around the world. Sondheim's Old Friends is a celebration of his greatest works, with some of the greatest talent both Broadway and the West End has to offer.

Having watched the one night only concert when it aired on BBC, I thought I knew what to expect. But witnessing the sheer talent of the orchestra and the cast live is a magic you'll only be able to truly experience when you see the show in person. 

The song choices were well thought-out, and while I would have liked a little more from shows like West Side Story and Sunday in the Park with George, it's important to remember that there's only so many songs they can squeeze in to two and a half hours; and even then, it just doesn't feel enough!

With such a stellar cast, all you'd really need is a stand and a microphone to captivate the audience, but what takes this concert to the next level is the set design by Matt Kinley, which is perfectly tailored for every song. Along with costume designs from Jill Parker and choreography from Stephen Mear, the production truly is a sight to behold.

The show is bursting with the glitz and glamour you'd expect from such a lavish event, and it somehow manages to find the balance between keeping the show traditional, but also appealing to a more modern audience too; which is why I think the audience was so diverse in age range!

With a staggering 41 songs, there is something for everyone. Sweeney Todd just so happens to be my all-time favourite musical, so to get a medley of five songs from the show, performed by Lea Salonga and Jeremy Secomb was a treat beyond my wildest dreams. The pair had brilliant chemistry, and for me, it was the highlight of the evening.

Other standout performances included Bradley Jaden's, "Hello, Little Girl", Janie Dee's, "The Boy From...", Bonnie Langford's, "I'm Still Here", Bernadette Peters', "Send in the Clowns", and "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid". Can you tell I'm struggling to pick just a handful? While the entire cast are exceptional, Lea Salonga holds a quality in which I've never experienced in a theatre before. She is utterly mesmerising, and to hear her live felt like one of theatre's greatest honours.

The show is nothing short of exceptional. However good you think it may be, I can assure you, it's going to be better. They'll be (several!) standing ovations, cheers, tears...and a whole lot of laughs. If you're looking for a night out that you'll remember in years to come, Sondheim's Old Friends is the show for you. A simply stellar show that you feel privileged to be experiencing. 

You can book tickets to Sondheim's Old Friends at the Gielgud Theatre, here.

**photo credit to Danny Kaan**

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