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Stars Align for [email protected] West End Concerts

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The original stars of the award-winning Donmar Warehouse productions of Merrily We Roll Along and Company will reunite for one-off concert presentations of the two musicals, held at the West End’s 980-seat Queen’s Theatre as part of Sondheim at 80, the Donmar’s own landmark festival celebrating the 80th birthday of the shows’ legendary American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

On Sunday 31 October 2010, Daniel Evans, Julian Ovenden, Samantha Spiro and Anna Francolini will reprise their performances in Sondheim’s backward-running Merrily We Roll Along. First seen in 1970 and premiere in New York in 1981, the musical didn’t receive its professional London premiere until 2000 at the Donmar, directed by Michael Grandage, who is now the theatre’s artistic director. It went on to win Best Actor in a Musical (for Evans), Best Actress in a Musical (Spiro) and Best New Musical in both the Laurence Olivier Awards and in the first-ever Whatsonstage.com Awards.

On Sunday 7 November 2010, Adrian Lester, Clive Rowe, Michael Simkins, Sophie Thompson and, again, Anna Francolini will reunite for Company, Sondheim’s 1981 musical revived at the Donmar in 1996 by then artistic director Sam Mendes. Another three-time Olivier winner, that production scooped Best Actor in a Musical (for Lester as Bobby), Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (for the late Sheila Gish) and Best Director for Mendes.

For both concerts, there will be 3pm matinee and a 7.30pm evening performance. The presentations are staged by Donmar associate directors, and Rob Ashford and Jamie Lloyd, respectively, with musical direction by Gareth Valentine, lighting by David Plater and sound by Terry Jardine.

Other performers in the Merrily cast will include: Lucy Bradshaw, David Lucas, James Millard, Grant Russell, Mary Stockley, Emma Joy Thomas and Shona White; and in Company, Paul Bentley, Clare Burt, Rebecca Front, Teddy Kempner and Gareth Snook.

At the Donmar’s 250-seat Covent Garden home base, full casting is also announced for the centrepiece of the Sondheim at 80 celebrations, the new production of Sondheim’s 1994 musical Passion, which reunites Argentine actress Elena Roger and director Jamie Lloyd after their success with Piaf.

In addition to Roger, Scarlett Strallen and David Thaxton, as previously announced, the cast will include an all-male supporting ensemble of: Simon Bailey, David Birrell, Allan Corduner, Ross Dawes, Iwan Lewis, Tim Morgan and Haydn Oakley. The revival runs at the Donmar from 21 September to 27 November 2010 (previews from 10 September).

Also at the Donmar itself, there will be two related platform events. On 16 September at 6pm, Sam Mendes and Michael Grandage will talk about their experiences staging Sondheim; and on 11 October at 6pm, Stephen Sondheim himself will be interviewed by Variety critic David Benedict about his life and career.

Speaking about the Donmar’s activities this autumn, Sondheim said: “My association with the Donmar Warehouse has been a joy from its inception in 1992 with Assassins through its productions of Company, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods and Pacific Overtures. Our collaborations over the years have been professionally fulfilling and personally gratifying and now I'm honoured and thrilled that they are presenting Passion to help celebrate my 80th birthday. There is no venue, or team of artists, that I would rather have produce the piece.”

Michael Grandage added: "This celebration of the work of Stephen Sondheim offers London a unique opportunity to honour one of the world's greatest living composers of musicals in his 80th year. I am delighted we are able to focus on his very special relationship with the Donmar through a series of events, concerts and performances involving so many talented artists."

** PLEASE NOTE: Whatsonstage.com has limited top-price allocations for PASSION, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG & COMPANY - undoubtedly, some of the hottest tickets in town!! These will be made available EXCLUSIVELY to members of the Whatsonstage.com Theatre Club in the coming weeks. To join the Club, click here!! **


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