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Exclusive: Stephen Sondheim's Old Friends to run in the West End with Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga

The show was first staged for one performance in May

A still from Old Friends alongside headshots for Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga
© Danny Kaan, Andrew Eccles and Raymund Isaac

Cameron Mackintosh announced live on stage at the 23rd Annual WhatsOnStage Awards that Stephen Sondheim's Old Friends, which he devised and produced, will be returning to the West End for a full run this autumn.

The production, which picked up a WhatsOnStage Award this evening after its initial staging in May of last year, will run at the Gielgud Theatre from 16 September for a 16-week limited season.

The show will welcome back a variety of stars from the original concert including the multi-award-winning Bernadette Peters (who will be making her full-length West End debut in the show), Christine Allado (Hamilton, The Prince of Egypt), Janie Dee (Carousel, Follies), Bonnie Langford (42nd Street, 9 to 5) and Jeremy Secomb (Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables).

Set to join them for the season are Lea Salonga (returning to the London stage for the first time in 27 years in the show), Beatrice Penny-Touré (The Phantom of the Opera, winner of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation Scholarship), Joanna Riding (Carousel, Follies) and Jac Yarrow (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Further names set to appear during the 16 weeks is to be revealed.

Mackintosh said: "Old Friends began its journey to the West End in a conversation I had with Steve during our enforced pandemic isolation – ‘It's time we did a third show' said Steve, and complete the trilogy that started with Side-by-Side by Sondheim in the 1970s, followed by Putting It Together in the ‘90s. We commenced work on it but as theatres and shows started to reopen post Covid, we got distracted and then suddenly on Thanksgiving just over a year ago Steve sadly left us, leaving his extraordinary legacy of work to live on forever. Over Christmas ‘21 I put together all our thoughts, and inspired by the shows I had worked on with him and Julia McKenzie, and the desire to showcase his greatest music as well as his great lyrics, the material of Old Friends miraculously fell onto the page pretty much as it is.

"Thanks to a phenomenal Gala cast, the show proved to be the great celebration we all wanted for our friend and inspiration - performed in the Sondheim Theatre, which I had rebuilt and renamed in his honour.

"The response to both the show and the subsequent television version recently screened by the BBC over the New Year has been quite overwhelming, so I am thrilled that Broadway legend, Bernadette Peters, one of my favourite old friends, is going to reprise her brilliant performance in what is astonishingly going to be her British stage debut - to be joined by Lea Salonga, who of course became my youngest old friend, when she created a sensation at the age of 17, starring in the original Miss Saigon – this will be her first West End run since Les Misérables 27 years ago.

"Bernadette and Lea head a stellar cast of co-stars, many of whom also appeared in last year's unforgettable Gala. Steve was always a Broadway Baby at heart, so I'm delighted that I have been able to put together one last great hurrah for my old friend, containing many of the greatest songs ever written for the musical theatre, in one ‘great big Broadway show' - just as he wanted."

The production is directed by Matthew Bourne, side by side with Julia McKenzie, with choreography by Stephen Mear. It is conducted by Alfonso Casado Trigo, musical supervision is by Stephen Brooker, musical arrangements by Stephen Metcalfe, set design by Matt Kinley, projection design by George Reeve, lighting design by Warren Letton and sound design by Mick Potter.

Tickets will go on sale on 22 February at 11am to priority bookers and DMT Plus members, with a general on-sale on 27 February at 11am.

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