Brian Stokes Mitchell Christine Ebersole Sondheim Concert
Sondheim Show Goes On: Minus Sondheim – but with the Brilliant Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersole
As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa honored its support group, the “Angels of the Arts,” with a reception Oct. 29 built around a meet-and-greet with Stephen Sondheim. The reception preceded what was billed as an evening with the legendary composer; his songs sung by Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersle.
Never mind that Sondheim wasn’t there to meet or to greet, or at the concert either. Given the freak snowstorm on the east coast that day, his plane never got off the ground. Still, as the saying goes, “the show must go on” and so did two parties and a concert, although the concert wasn’t the original one as planned.
Instead of “Stephen Sondheim: In Conversation,” at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, a full-length Sondheim concert materialized. Rather having three songs each to sing as previously planned, Stokes Mitchell and Ebersole delivered a masterful 15-song show, invented they later said, in just a few hours before the show.
Both Stokes Mitchell and Ebersole are Tony Award winners: he won for “Kiss Me Kate;” she, for “Grey Gardens.”
Tedd Firth played piano; Michael Kerker, ASCAP’s director of musical theater, provided commentary; and Sondheim, dubbed by Kerker “the voice of God,” joined in for a short while by telephone. So the audience heard brilliant singing and some conversation after all.
In his remarks before the show at the Center Club, the site of the intended meet-and-greet for SCFTA’s Angels of the Arts, center president Terrence Dwyer thanked the Angels for their ongoing support. He noted that the group has donated $15 million to the center over the years.
Guests again gathered after the performance, this time at the concert hall’s Donor Room, where they congratulated the artists for their skill, inventiveness and flexibility.
Stokes Mitchell said inventing a last-minute show had been a first for him.
“We were flying by the seat of our pants,” said Ebersole.
For his part, Dwyer confirmed the original show, “Stephen Sondheim: In Conversation,” would take place as previously planned, at a date to be determined. He also talked of yet more original, innovative programming still to come in the Segerstrom Center’s 25th anniversary season.
Concert-goers enjoying the receptions included Dee and Larry Higby, Marsha and Darrel Anderson, Deborah and Larry Bridges, Carol and Kent Wilken, Victoria and David Collins, Barbara and Elliott Wagner, Pat and Gene Hancock, Bette and Wiley Aitken, Tara and David Troob, and Dennis Keith.
Photo, above: from left, Dennis Keith talks with Broadway stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Christine Ebersole after Brian Stokes Mitchell Christine Ebersole Sondheim Concert (photo: Steve Dawson)
ALSO IN SOCIETY NEWS L.A.:
Angels of the Arts/ Brian Stokes Mitchell Christine Ebersole Sondheim Concert
Published Nov. 4, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA