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In Memoriam: Stephen Sondheim

Since our first season in 2011, the music of Stephen Sondheim (1930–2021) has been integral to our company.

Side by Side by Sondheim, 2011

Our debut musical revue, Side by Side by Sondheim, directed by Bernie Cardell, featured many of the master’s great works from Follies, Anyone Can WhistleGypsy, and more.

The Denver Post’s then-theatre critic John Moore wrote a decade ago, “The first legit offering by Cherry Creek’s first-ever theater company is a revue of the Broadway master’s early songbook that almost no one this side of the Kennedy Center ever fully conquers, for one simple reason: Stephen Sondheim happens to be a cruel genius. For there is nothing simple about singing Sondheim.

“Perhaps the finest songwriter of the past half-century, Sondheim pens song-stories that are in themselves works of art. They just weren’t written to be sung by mere mortals. To achieve the full vocal range, emotional depth and oftentimes comedy to which most every Sondheim song aspires requires not only operatically trained voices but estimable actors who can convey loss, longing, unabashed love, irony, humor and a dozen other emotions. That this fledgling theater company would take on such a brazen challenge out of the gate says everything about its creative ambitions.

“No one is less forgiving than Sondheim aficionados. Pull this off, and you’re on the map. Fail, and there is no place to hide from their enmity.

“Consider Cherry Creek Theatre on the map.”

Sondheim on Sondheim, 2015

Inspired by his challenging music, we revisited the genius’ catalog with Sondheim on Sondheim, directed by Pat Payne in 2015. Video narrations of stories told by Sondheim himself provided audiences with an insightful look into the life and process of a brilliant composer.

The production sparkled with a powerhouse cast performing songs from Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, and even a few numbers that were cut from the final scores of classic musicals like Company and West Side Story.

Our 2019 season brought Cherry Creek audiences our first fully-staged Sondheim musical, A Little Night Music. Winner of seven Tony Awards, Stephen Sondheim’s “sophisticated and enchanting” (The New York Times) musical that brought us the hauntingly beautiful ballad “Send in the Clowns” was reimagined on our stage by Henry Award-winning director Kelly Van Oosbree.

Cherry Creek Theatre’s beguiling production was nominated for an outstanding four Henry Award nominations including:

  • Kelly Van Oosbree, Outstanding Direction of a Musical
  • Jeremy Rill, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical
  • Megan Van De Hey, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical
  • Kelly Gregson, Outstanding Costume Design Tier 2

We are deeply saddened by the recent news of Stephen Sondheim’s passing. We will miss his artistry but will cherish all he has given us. Thank you, Steve.