An array of stars including Judi Dench and original cast members Julia McKenzie, Millicent Martin, David Kernan and Ned Sherrin will take part in a special performance of Side by Side by Sondheim to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. The gala will be held, for one night only, on Sunday 21 May 2006, at the West End’s Novello Theatre.

The revue of the music of Stephen Sondheim (pictured) - with hits from Sondheim shows including A Little Night Music, Into the Woods and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum - received its premiere at London's Mermaid Theatre on 14 May 1976, bringing the American composer’s music to a wider UK audience. It ran for 59 performances at the Mermaid, before moving in July 1976 to the West End’s Wyndham's Theatre where it ran for 518 performances and then on, in October 1977, to the Garrick Theatre where it closed in April 1978.

The special performance of Side by Side by Sondheim is presented by Richard Douglas Productions in aid of the Shooting Star Children's Hospice, which provides respite and end of life care to terminally ill children, young people and their families.

Side by Side by Sondheim is directed by David Kernan and staged by Bill Deamer, with musical direction by Gareth Valentine. Other guest stars include Janie Dee, Sally Ann Triplett, Daniel Evans (who starts performances this weekend in the West End transfer of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George) and Louise Gold, with narrators Christopher Biggins, Derek Fowlds, Trevor McDonald, Sheridan Morley and Nicholas Parsons.


Meanwhile, Vanessa Redgrave is keeping the flag flying for Covent Garden’s Theatre Museum, which is facing possible closure (See News, 28 Mar 2006). The museum has been under threat of closure since Heritage Lottery Fund turned down two grant applications from the owner, the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, for redevelopment.

Redgrave will host a special reception in support of the campaign – backed by a range of theatre luminaries - to keep the museum open in the heart of theatreland, on 16 May 2006. That’s two days ahead of a meeting of V&A Trustees to assess the situation on 18 May, when a decision is expected to be taken about the future of the museum. The evening is being jointly hosted by producer Thelma Holt.

Amongst the other stars due to take part in the awareness-raising event include Trevor Nunn, Mark Rylance, Victoria Hamilton, Peter Bowles and Kika Markham, as well as other members of the Redgrave family. Amongst the Theatre Museum’s collections is an exhibition on the Redgrave acting dynasty, including costumes, papers and other artefacts of Michael Redgrave, the late father of Vanessa, Corin and Lynn Redgrave (who is flying in from the US to attend the event).

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock