Dame Judi Dench will make her Proms debut this weekend, joining a roll-call of stars performing in honour of American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday. Prom 19, the Sondheim at 80 Prom, takes place this Saturday 31 July 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall, and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 7.30pm and on BBC 2 at 8pm.

Dench will sing “Send in the Clowns” from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. The 1973 musical was recently revived by Trevor Nunn for the Menier Chocolate Factory, transferring to the West End and Broadway. In an earlier 1995 production at the National Theatre, Dench starred as the lovelorn Desiree Armfeldt, the part played in Nunn’s staging by Hannah Waddingham, Catherine Zeta-Jones and, now on Broadway, Bernadette Peters.

Dench said in a statement: “Singing at the Proms is not something I ever imaged I would do and it’s a hugely exciting - if slightly daunting - prospect." She continued: “I believe Stephen Sondheim is a true genius. His impact on musical theatre can never be overstated and I'm delighted to be part of his 80th birthday celebrations at the BBC Proms.”

Sondheim will be on hand on the evening for the first Prom ever dedicated to his music – and the first that he has ever attended. Amongst the other stars due to appear are Bryn Terfel, Maria Friedman, Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell, who will perform excerpts from Sondheim musicals including Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, Company, Pacific Overtures and Sunday in the Park with George.

The principals will be joined by 80 young performers supported by the BBC Performing Arts Fund, the charity created in 2007 off the back of phone voting proceeds from Andrew Lloyd Webber and the BBC’s musical casting competitions. The chorus will feature around half of those selected to date for the fund’s Training in Musical Theatre Scheme, including soloists Joseph Claus, Emma Odell and Waylon Jacobs.

Prom 19, part of the year-long international celebrations for Sondheim’s 80th birthday, is directed by Martin Duncan with David Charles Abell conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra. Musical theatre will feature again later in the season with Prom 49: A Celebration of Rodgers and Hammerstein on 22 August 2010.


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