Fri. Aug 7th, 2020

Interview: Raúl Esparza on ‘Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration’ [VIDEO]

March 12th was the night the lights went out on Broadway. The rise of the coronavirus impacted every section of society and often when history has given us catastrophes or terror, it’s art that thrives and lifts us up. But even that was taken. Thousands of jobs in the theater disappeared. Shows that were just finding their footing and giving us new stars were cut short. The Tonys were canceled. We were all disconnected from each other – physically, geographically, emotionally – in a way we’ve never been before.

What began around a virtual dining table with four people (Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Bill Curran, Raúl Esparza, Stephen Sondheim and Paul Wontorek), an idea to have a few folks sing some songs to celebrate the 90th birthday of Stephen Sondheim, musical theater’s most revered composer, lyricist and legend (“I put him right alongside Gershwin,” says Esparza), quickly grew and morphed into a complex, technical masterpiece that brought together the greatest voices of the Broadway stage along with film and television favorites to not only honor Sondheim but to help heal the wound of a devastated industry.

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration gave millions of people a better than front row seat to not just a greatest hits album of his work, the virtual format gave audiences an experience unlike any they’ve ever had before. We screamed when Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Audra Mcdonald belted “Ladies Who Lunch” in bathrobes, slinging back drinks. Our hearts soared at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Giants in the Sky” and our tears flowed with Judy Kuhn’s “What Can You Lose” and Annaleigh Ashford & Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Move On” to Bernadette Peters’ rapturous acapella version of “No One Is Alone” and the show-stopping ensemble finale of “I’m Still Here.”

In this interview with host and producer and four-time Tony nominee Raúl Esparza, he details the very specific technical difficulties and soaring achievements of musicians recording each section on their own only to be succinctly edited Ryan Simmons and sound designed by Michael Croiter and Mattias Winter and reveals that the Library of Congress reached out to include it as a great American work. We get emotional talking about our favorites (anyone who knows me knows what my favorite number was), the surprises, the passion and personal stories from each performer that elevated every song.

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-recorded).

Please donate to ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty):

  • 0:18 – Stephen Schwartz – “Prologue” (Follies)
  • 3:28 – Broadway Musicians – “Overture” (Merrily We Roll Along)
  • 8:47 – Sutton Foster – “There Won’t Be Trumpets” (Anyone Can Whistle)
  • 12:47 – Neil Patrick Harris – “The Witch’s Rap” (Into the Woods)
  • 16:26 – Kelli O’Hara – “What More Do I Need?” (Saturday Night)
  • 19:56 – Judy Kuhn – “What Can You Lose?” (Dick Tracy)
  • 23:53 – Katrina Lenk – “Johanna” (Sweeney Todd)
  • 27:11 – Aaron Tveit – “Marry Me a Little” (Company)
  • 32:58 – Beanie Feldstein & Ben Platt – “It Takes Two” (Into the Woods)
  • 36:25 – Brandon Uranowitz – “With So Little to Be Sure Of” (Anyone Can Whistle)
  • 41:04 – Melissa Errico – “Children and Art” (Sunday in the Park with George)
  • 46:20 – Randy Rainbow – “By the Sea” (Sweeney Todd)
  • 49:21 – Elizabeth Stanley – “The Miller’s Son” (A Little Night Music)
  • 54:21 – Mandy Patinkin – “Lesson #8” (Sunday in the Park with George)
  • 59:05 – Maria Friedman – “Broadway Baby” (Follies)
  • 1:02:36 – Lin-Manuel Miranda – “Giants in the Sky” (Into the Woods)
  • 1:05:46 – Lea Salonga – “Loving You” (Passion)
  • 1:08:28 – Laura Benanti – “I Remember” (Evening Primrose)
  • 1:14:06 – Chip Zien – “No More” (Into the Woods)
  • 1:19:27 – Josh Groban – “Children Will Listen/Not While I’m Around” (Into the Woods/Sweeney Todd)
  • 1:25:13 – Brian Stokes Mitchell – “The Flag Song” (Assassins)
  • 1:28:04 – Michael Cerveris – “Finishing the Hat” (Sunday in the Park with George)
  • 1:33:28 – Linda Lavin – “The Boy From…” (The Mad Show)
  • 1:37:10 – Alexander Gemignani – “Buddy’s Blues” (Follies)
  • 1:41:08 – Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh & Thom Sesma – “Someone in a Tree” (Pacific Overtures)
  • 1:50:59 – Raúl Esparza – “Take Me to the World” (Evening Primrose)
  • 1:53:55 – Donna Murphy – “Send in the Clowns” (A Little Night Music)
  • 1:58:47 – Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep & Audra McDonald – “The Ladies Who Lunch” (Company)
  • 2:03:31 – Annaleigh Ashford & Jake Gyllenhaal – “Move On” (Sunday in the Park with George)
  • 2:08:14 – Patti LuPone – “Anyone Can Whistle” (Anyone Can Whistle)
  • 2:11:46 – Bernadette Peters – “No One Is Alone” (Into the Woods)
  • 2:17:49 – Ensemble – “I’m Still Here” (Follies) Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Hosted by Raúl Esparza

Musical Direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell

Directed by Paul Wontorek

Executive Producers Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Bill Curran, Raúl Esparza, Stephen Sondheim and Paul Wontorek

Illustrations by Tug Rice Graphics by Ryan Casey

Edited by Jim Cocoliato, Alexander Goyco, Mike Karns/Marathon Digital, Nick Shakra Ryan Simmons

Audio Mixed by Michael Croiter and Mattias Winter

%d bloggers like this: