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Christchurch singers in showcase of musical giant Stephen Sondheim

A trio of Christchurch singers will perform a showcase of songs, written and composed by Stephen Sondheim, in a rare Christchurch tribute for the musical theatre giant who passed away last year.

Celebrating Sondheim will be performed at the Christchurch Arts Centre on April 11 as part of a new season of the Great Hall Lunchtime Concert Series.

Christchurch performers Juliet Reynolds-Midgley, Naomi Ferguson and Jack Fraser will sing a selection of songs from Sondheim’s pioneering career, which began with West Side Story and Gypsy in the 1950s and continued for many decades with celebrated musicals like CompanySweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George.

Performer Naomi Ferguson said the show would be a celebration for Sondheim fans and an introduction for novices.

“This will be a great sampler box if you haven’t experienced Sondheim before. It’s a good introduction to his work and why people love it so much,’’ she said.

“You don’t have to know his back catalogue to come along and enjoy this concert. The programme is beautiful. There are funny moments, sadder moments and really gorgeous singing.”

She said Sondheim’s celebrated works were rarely performed in Christchurch. His musicals were critically lauded and garlanded with awards, but were rarely box office smashes.

“We have such a small audience base in Christchurch and musicals are so expensive to stage that you have to choose something that you know will get bums on seats,’’ Ferguson said.

“It is a harder sell for audiences.

“It is a shame, because those of us that are the real theatre nerds would love the opportunity to see them performed.”

The songs performed at the Great Hall will include The Ladies Who Lunch from CompanyI Remember from Evening PrimroseFinishing the Hat from Sunday in the Park with George and Losing My Mind from Follies.

Ferguson said Sondheim’s songs were a satisfying challenge to perform.

“It feels like serious work that is a real challenge on every level.

“They require a lot more work than most. There is something really satisfying about pulling that off.”

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