SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
November 18, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A magnificent tribute to the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim! To really enjoy the music of this wonderful occasion, I highly recommend this release on Blu-ray. The music sounds crystal clear, the audience applause and just everything about this release comes alive on Blu-ray! Highly recommended!
© MMX Ellen M. Krass Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert
DURATION: 116 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080i High Definition (1:78:1), DTS-HD MA 5.1, Uncompressed PCM Stereo
COMPANY: Image Entertainment
Release Date: November 16, 2010
Produced, Directed for Stage and Television by Lonny Price
Written by Lonny Price, David Hyde Pierce
Produced by Ellen M. Krass, Mort Swinsky, Matt Cowart
Executive Producers: Stewart E. Lane, Bonnie Comley, Cathy Fitzpatrick
Choreographer: Josh Rhodes
Executive Director: Alan Adelman
Set Designer: James Noone
Hosted by David Hyde Pierce
Conducted by Paul Gemignani
Music by the New York Philharmonic
David Hyde Pierce
Shina Ann Morris
Tanairi Sade Vazquez
New York Philharmonic
Image Entertainment is proud to share a celebration of the life and wondrous work of one of Broadway’s greatest legends – the incomparable Stephen Sondheim. For the master composer and lyricist’s 80th birthday, scores of the musical theater’s brightest stars gathered to perform more than two dozen sensational numbers from Sondheim’s unsurpassed canon. Many of these enduring songs are rarely heard and several are performed by the original Broadway cast members. David Hyde Pierce hosts this magical event with Sondheim’s longtime collaborator Paul Gemignani conducting the New York Philharmonic. Directed for the stage and television by Lonny Price and filmed live March 15–16, 2010 at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, this is a must-have addition for every musical theatre aficionado.
“Songs In All Languages”
“The Ladies Who Lunch”
“Not A Day Goes By”
“I’m Still Here”
Stephen Sondheim is an American composer and lyrical legend.
In his oeuvre, he has won an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards, Grammy Awards and a Pulitzer Prize. He has composed and wrote lyrics for popular Broadway shows such as “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Company”, “Follies”, “A Little Night Music”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Sunday in the Park with George”, “Into the Woods” and most notably for writing the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”.
With a career of composing and writing lyrics for many Broadway hits, many of Broadway’s greatest legends and musical friends pay tribute to Stephen Sondheim for his 80th birthday. On March 15-16, 2010, Lonny Price directed “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” which took place at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City and was hosted by David Hyde Pierce.
And now “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download before its national television premiere on PBS’ “Great Performances” Series (which will air on Nov. 24th).
The tracklisting for this special performance are as follows:
- “America” (Dancers, West Side Story)
- “Something’s Coming” (Alexander Gemingnani, West Side Story)
- “We’re Gonna Be Alright” (Marin Mazzie, Jason Danieley, Do I Hear a Waltz?)
- “Don’t Laugh” (Victoria Clark, Hot Spot)
- “Johanna”(Nathan Gunn, Sweeney Todd)
- “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow” and “Love Will See Us Through” (Matt Cavenaugh, Jenn Colella, Laura Osnes, Bobby Steggert, Follies)
- “Too Many Mornings” (Nathan Gunn, Audra McDonald, Follies)
- “The Road You Didn’t Take” (John McMartin, Follies)
- “It Takes Two” (Joanna Gleason, Chip Zien, Into the Woods)
- “Growing Up” (Jim Walton, Merrily We Roll Along)
- “Finishing the Hat” (Mandy Patinkin, Sunday in the Park with George)
- “Move On” (Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Sunday in the Park with George)
- “Pretty Women” (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Sweeney Todd)
- “A Little Priest” (Michael Cerveris, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Sweeney Todd)
- “Theme from ‘Reds’” with Pas De Deux (NY Philharmonic, ABT Dancers Maria Riccetto and Blaine Hoven)
- “So Many People” (Laura Benanti, Saturday Night)
- “Beautiful Girls” (David Hyde Pierce)
- “Ladies Who Lunch” (Patti LuPone, Company)
- “Losing My Mind” (Marin Mazzie– Follies)
- “The Glamorous Life” (Audra McDonald, A Little Night Music)
- “Could I Leave You” (Donna Murphy, Follies)
- “Not a Day Goes By” (Bernadette Peters, Merrily We Roll Along)
- “I’m Still Here” (Elaine Stritch, Follies)
- “Sunday” (Broadway Chorus, Sunday in the Park with George)
- “Happy Birthday” (All Cast)
“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” is presented in 1080i High-Definition Widescreen (1:78:1). The picture quality is clear as it is shot via HD and there are a good amount of camera angles that capture the whole stage, the singers up close, behind the audience, a camera right at the audience and well-done editing that is not dizzying. The set design for the entire production was very well-done. Very elegant!
Colors for the entire performance was absolutely vibrant, especially the red dresses by Dianne Von Furstenberg which literally pop in HD. For a musical performance, lighting and colors were well-done and found no artifacting or any major problems with the video.
Possibly the most noticeable of this Blu-ray release is how beautiful the lossless soundtrack is. Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Uncompressed PCM Stereo, everything vocally and musically is crystal clear. From the music by the New York Philharmonic, the vocalists and even the audience applause which fills up your soundscape as the applause is heard through the surround channels.
I was very impressed by the lossless soundtrack and I’m a true believer that music via lossless comes alive in HD and in this case, on Blu-ray, the music for “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” sounds absolutely incredible. If you have a receiver and a 5.1 system, especially a Blu-ray player, I highly recommend going for the Blu-ray edition over the DVD.
“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert”” comes with no special features.
“SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert”” comes with four page liner notes by writer and theatrical director Lonny Price. Price writes about his adoration for Stephen Sondheim and working on this special birthday project.
I am familiar with Stephen Sondheim’s music in film but not so much in the Broadway performances, so watching “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” on Blu-ray was actually quite incredible.
The performances were absolutely wonderful and as mentioned, on Blu-ray, you get two lossless soundtrack that literally envelop your room with music and also making you feel like you are watching it live with the audience applause being heard all around you (courtesy of well-placed audience applause through the surround channels).
But the performances were simply magnificent. “A Little Priest” by Michael Cerveris, George Hearn and Patti LuPone was simply wonderful. “Theme from ‘Reds'” was absolutely delightful, David Hyde Pierce’s performance of “Beautiful Girls” was simply humorous and well-sung and possibly my favorite performance of the night was watching Patti LuPone sing “Ladies Who Lunch”, Marin Mazzie performing “Losing My Mind”, Audra McDonald’s wonderful performance of “The Glamourous Life”, Donna Murphy’s humorous and magnificent performance of “Could I Leave You”, Bernadette Peters “Not a Day Goes By” and a fantastic performance by Elaine Stritch of “I’m Still Here”.
But I have to admit that seeing all the talent of The Broadway Chorus coming together to perform “Sunday” literally brought a tear to my eye, especially for Stephen Sondheim as well. What a wonderful, surprising performance!
The entire concert is just magnificent and I truly enjoyed the performances. I wish there was one more performance for “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night” but nevertheless the “Sweeney Todd” and “Follies” performances were enjoyable.
If anything, every talent was on their top game that night and everyone performed very well.
As for the Blu-ray release, I found the lossless soundtrack to be quite incredible. The performance literally came alive via Blu-ray and for those with a 5.1 setup and a Blu-ray player will definitely want to get the Blu-ray version of this concert if you are in love with Stephen Sondheim’s music especially to hear them sung by the many Broadway greats who came to perform during those two nights. If there was only one negative that I would have about this release was the lack of any special features. But other than that, it’s a wonderful Blu-ray with beautiful, fun and enjoyable music.
Overall, if you are a fan of Stephen Sondheim’s work or you loved the music from any his Broadway or theatrical works, “SONDHEIM! The Birthday Concert” is a wonderful tribute and is highly recommended on Blu-ray!
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