Olney Theatre presents tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim on outdoor stage

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews a Sondheim tribute at Olney Theatre (Part 1)

Broadway lost an icon last fall with the death of the great Stephen Sondheim at age 91.

On Friday, Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Maryland, hosts a “Celebration of Sondheim” at its outdoor Root Family Stage at 7:30 p.m. as part of its Olney Outdoors cabaret series.

“He was a true titan in musical theater, giving us so many classics,” Director of Curated Programming Kevin McAllister told WTOP. “There’s no greater way to say we love musical theater than to present a concert that honors Stephen Sondheim. Four signers from the area are going to do an hour-and-a-half presentation of songs from various musicals.”

You’ll hear beloved show tunes like “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” “Pretty Women” from “Sweeney Todd,” “Loving You” from “Passion,” and “Marry Me a Little” from “Company.” It’s hard to pick a setlist because there are “so many classics that people have been listening to for years and might not even know that Sondheim is responsible for.”

Sondheim was a theatrical game changer “because he challenged artists and audiences alike,” McAllister said. “He got away from the easy way to listen to music and found new variations of listening and understanding. He was a pioneer at play on words, he was very open about his love and affection of words, text, rhyming patterns and crossword puzzles.”

“He plays with time signatures, he changes rhythm, he is witty, he is very demanding of musical theater and musical theory,” McAllister said. “There was all of a sudden this new expectation that thought and art worked very well together. Just a continual raising of the bar that has sparked a lot of new-age composers to challenge themselves to dig deeper.”

This depth of thought, passion and soul makes his characters “more layered,” McAllister said. “As artists, we’re able to delve it into more deeply because there’s so much to play with. And as an audience, you’re curious to understand how these people relate to you and then find out how they fall in love, fall out of love, make huge mistakes or fix mistakes.”

It’s a shame that Sondheim has left us, but now there’s a giant in the sky.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews a Sondheim tribute at Olney Theatre (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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