A charity gala to celebrate the 75th birthday of Stephen Sondheim (pictured) will take place at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Sunday 23 October 2005. A star-studded line-up of West End and Broadway favourites will take part in Children Will Listen, the UK’s only official birthday tribute to the legendary American composer and lyricist.

Born in New York City on 22 March 1930, Sondheim is credited with revolutionising the musical theatre genre. Following early collaborations with the likes of Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story and Jule Styne on Gypsy, for which he wrote the lyrics only, Sondheim went on to write the lyrics and music for such groundbreaking, multi award-winning shows as A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Company, Follies, Assassins, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Passion and Sunday in the Park with George, which is to be revived this Christmas at the Menier Chocolate Factory (See The Goss, 17 Jun 2005).

Children Will Listen will feature many of Sondheim’s best-known numbers from these and other shows. The highlight of the evening’s programme, however, will be the UK premiere of the songs, including “Isn’t He Something?”, from his latest musical, Bounce, which was first seen in Chicago in June 2003.

Performers who have agreed to take part in the gala (subject to availability) include Imelda Staunton, Laura Michelle Kelly, John Barrowman, Sally Ann Triplett, Roy Hudd, James Dreyfus and Eartha Kitt. Other names on the schedule include Rosemary Ashe, Stephen Carlile, Clive Carter, Gemma Craven, Daniel Evans, Tim Flavin, Rosemary Ford, Beverly Klein, Bonnie Langford, Julian Ovenden, Stephen Page, Nicholas Parsons, Wendi Peters, Sian Phillips, Joan Savage, Claire Sweeney and the winners of the Channel 4 reality TV show Musicality.

Children Will Listen is presented by Richard Douglas Productions and the Stephen Sondheim Society, with TV and radio presenter Nicholas Parsons, who also performs, acting as associate producer. The gala devised and staged by Richard Morris and Doug Pinchin, with musical direction by Gareth Valentine and choreography is by Bill Dreamer.

Tickets range from £20 to £120 (the latter including champagne reception). Proceeds from the event will be donated to ChildLine. Producers aim to raise £100,000 for the children’s charity.

- by Caroline Ansdell