Broadway opened its season this year by honoring one of its most talented and beloved icons. The 1,055-seat venue on West 43rd Street (formerly named after Henry Miller) was renamed "Stephen Sondheim" on Wednesday night and had its marquee lit in Sondheim's honor. Stephen Sondheim attended the ceremony along with Broadway royalty such as Nathan Lane, Patti LaPone, and John Weidman.
Sondheim, who turned 80 in March, is not only a genius composer and lyricist — he's also a theatrical legend and openly gay man whose songs have become anthems for two generations of GLBTs. Deeply move by the honor of having a Broadway house named after him, Sondheim told the crowd gathered to watch the event "I'm deeply embarrassed. I'm thrilled, but deeply embarrassed. I've always hated my last name. It just doesn't sing." But despite not liking his name, Sondheim still flashed a delighted smile when he threw the switch and saw it in lights over his new theater.
Several of the attendees gave speeches expressing their admiration for Stephen Sondheim, including Nathan Lane, who joked "I have to say — don't take this the wrong way — this is so much more moving to christen a theater the Stephen Sondheim as opposed to the British Petroleum Playhouse or the McNugget."
Sondheim has received several tributes this year, including a birthday concert by the New York Philharmonic and revival productions of A Little Night Music and Sondheim on Sondheim. Fitting accolades indeed for the man who almost single-handedly reshaped America's musical theater.
The new Stephen Sondheim Theater recently underwent an extensive renovation where is was, among other improvements, turned into a environmentally friendly building while retaining its neo-Georgian architecture. The already-sold-out The Pee-Wee Herman Show will be the first production in the new theater, followed by a revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes.
Some highlights from Wednesday's festivities:
Just goes to prove what I've always said: There's good, there's great, and then there's Sondheim. Congratulations Stephen!