The Signature Theatre bestowed its honor on Carol Burnett, who was the last person to be handpicked by Stephen Sondheim to receive it. https://t.co/1jYMMtlPNs
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 19, 2022
From the Washington Post, “For Carol Burnett, the Sondheim Award Is Personal”:
When Stephen Sondheim asked his friend Carol Burnett years ago if she would come to New York and sing “I’m Still Here” from “Follies,” she instantly agreed. Though somehow, Burnett had failed to absorb one crucial detail: She would be required to belt the number for, gulp, an audience of 2,700 Sondheim freaks in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall…
That 1985 concert — with the likes of Barbara Cook, Mandy Patinkin, Elaine Stritch, George Hearn and Lee Remick — is a milestone in the Sondheim annals. Burnett could still chuckle at the memory of her misapprehension as she reminisced last Sunday in an elegant meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons in Northern Virginia. The next day, Signature Theatre would bestow on her its Stephen Sondheim Award, whose past recipients have included Angela Lansbury, Harold Prince, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald.
The pandemic delayed the honoring of Burnett for two years, and then in November the revered Broadway composer died, at 91. One poignant result is that Burnett — who met Sondheim six decades ago, when both had just begun to make their marks — is the last person handpicked by Sondheim to receive the award…
At 89, Burnett — a Broadway baby to her core but more lovingly remembered for “The Carol Burnett Show,” the hour-long variety show she headlined on CBS for 279 episodes from 1967 to 1978 — remains as sharp and engaging as ever. For the tribute to her that Signature orchestrated Monday night at the Capital One Hall in Tysons, the performers included Peters, the first person she ever asked to appear on the TV show, after seeing her in an off-Broadway musical, “Dames at Sea.”
“When no one else would have me, you hired me,” Peters recounted from the stage, after serenading Burnett with “Old Friends” from Sondheim and George Furth’s “Merrily We Roll Along.”…
Burnett has an impressive trophy case filled with Emmys and Golden Globes and Kennedy Center Honors, but a Sondheim Award justifiably pegs her as in that inner circle of performers and directors and musicians whom the composer cherished. She famously emerged as a musical theater star in 1959, playing Princess Winnifred in “Once Upon a Mattress,” a spoof of “The Princess and the Pea” fairy tale, with music by Mary Rodgers, daughter of Richard. Her trademark song was the risible “Shy,” a misapplied adjective to both Winnifred and Burnett. (It was reprised Monday night by D.C. actress Awa Sal Secka.)…
Lately, Burnett’s public life has shifted from performance to reminiscence: Several times a year, she tours with a show that includes the question-and-answer format that memorably began each episode of “The Carol Burnett Show.” Remarkably, she said, YouTube and reruns on cable have kept her old TV show alive.
“A couple of years before the pandemic, there was a little boy in the second row who raised his hand that I called on,” Burnett recounted. “I said, ‘What’s your name?’ He said, ‘Andrew.’ And I said, ‘How old are you, Andrew?’ He said, ‘9.’ And I said, ‘You know who I am?’ And there was a pause, and he said, ‘Surprisingly, yes.’ ”
Burnett’s charlady character has been one of my inspirations for my performance at this blog — I may not be able to carry the spotlight, but I can always be here.
I’ve recommended Putting It Together before, as an introduction to Sondheim, or just a very pleasant mood-lifter. Just five characters in a story stitched together from some of Sondheim’s favorite songs — the other actors in the video being George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall, John Barrowman (aka Captain Jack Harkness of Dr. Who / Torchwood), and Bronson Pinchot.
"Burnett — who met Sondheim 6 decades ago, when both had just begun to make their marks — is the last person handpicked by Sondheim to receive the award." – @washingtonpost
— BroadwayHD (@BroadwayHD) May 19, 2022