This coming Friday (15 January) at 8:00 pm, The Stephen Sondheim Society Chairman Craig Glenday will be making an appearance on the world’s longest-running live orchestral music programme on radio: Friday Night is Music Night. Craig has helped to curate the content for this special performance, and he’s guaranteed us that some Sondheim will be on the cards.
The theme for the show is “world records”, because when he’s not filling his spare time with matters of a Sondheim nature, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief at Guinness World Records. This year, GWR celebrated its 60th birthday, so the show is a celebration of both the programme’s record-breaking longevity (it’s been going since 1952!) and also the famous record book’s own diamond anniversary.
“I can’t say too much before the broadcast,” said Craig, “but because this is a show about record-breaking musical acts, and I was asked to suggest a programme, I had to have a bit of Sondheim in there. He’s appeared in the record books over the years for his unrivalled tally of eight Tony Awards: the most Tonys won by a composer.” Craig is also being interviewed in the interval about his job, which he calls “the best job in the world – officially!”
Those Tonys are: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Best Musical, 1963); Company (Best Musical, Score and Lyrics, 1971); Follies (Best Score, 1972); A Little Night Music (Best Musical and Score, 1973); Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Best Musical and Score, 1979); Into The Woods (Best Score, 1988); Passion (Best Musical and Score, 1994); and a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (2008).
Characters from Sondheim shows also make it into the Guinness World Records book. The role of Mama Rose from Gypsy has provided the most Tony Award nominations for a character in the history of theatre, with five actresses being recognised: Ethel Merman (1960), Angela Lansbury (1975, won), Tyne Daly (1990, won), Bernadette Peters (2003) and Patti Lupone (2008, won). This also represents the most Tony Award wins for a character (3) – a record shared by Pseudolus from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with wins for Zero Mostel (1963), Phil Silvers (1972) and Nathan Lane (1996).
It was also in a Sondheim role – that of The Witch from the 2014 movie of Into The Woods – that Meryl Streep earned her 19th Oscar nomination: the most Oscar nominations for an actress.
The BBC Concert Orchestra will be under the baton of Mike Dixon, and Ken Bruce will be presenting. As well as at least one Sondheim song, expect to hear numbers from The Phantom of the Opera (Longest theatrical run for a show on Broadway) and Les Misérables (Longest theatrical run for a musical in the West End), as well as record-breaking film scores (Star Wars, Jurassic Park) and songs from the likes of Elvis and The Beatles. Find out more about this edition of Friday Night is Music Night – and listen to the show after its live broadcast – here.
Friday Night is Music Night, 15 January, 8:00 pm