Sondheim Unplugged is a popular New York City cabaret series that was launched in July of 2010 and is currently in residence at New York's famed nightspot, Feinstein's/54 Below. The BroadwayWorld and Bistro Award-winning series features some of Broadway and cabaret's most esteemed vocalists (including special guests who created roles in Stephen Sondheim musicals), delving into the musical world of the celebrated Broadway composer, accompanied by piano only.

The series was launched during "the hoopla surrounding Stephen Sondheim's 80th birthday, which was widely celebrated here in New York," according to series creator, producer and host, Phil Geoffrey Bond. After seeing a few of the "big gala celebrations," Bond wanted to create a smaller tribute to Sondheim at The 100-seat Laurie Beechman Theatre on West 42nd Street where, at the time, he served as Director of Programming.

The series was only meant to run for four performances throughout the month of July. However, as it grew in popularity throughout the month, so did demand, and Sondheim Unplugged continues its run currently.

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Phil Geoffrey Bond,
creator and host of Sondheim Unplugged 

In contrast to the “grand concert presentations" of Sondheim’s music, Sondheim Unplugged “pares everything down to concentrate on the brilliance of these melodies and lyrics,” as is explained in the show. Throughout the evening, Bond fills the audience in on “various tidbits of theatrical lore” concerning the original Broadway productions.

 
 

VENUES

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Although scheduled to open at The Laurie Beechman Theatre, a last minute decision by management resulted in the venue closing down during the Fourth of July weekend. So, a hurried substitution was made, and Sondheim Unplugged instead played its first performance at the Manhattan venue Don't Tell Mama, resuming performances at The Laurie Beechman Theatre the following week.

When Broadway nightspot 54 Below (now Feinstein’s/54 Below) opened its doors in 2011, Bond had already been hired to serve as Director of Programming for the new venue, so Sondheim Unplugged transferred there, where it remains as the NYC home of the series.
Sondheim Unplugged has played several other venues and performing arts centers, including NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center), ARC Stages and The Philipstown Depot Theatre. On May 14, 2018, the series debuted in London at The Hippodrome in Leicester Square, followed by regular visits at Crazy Coqs, Live at Zedel near Piccadilly.

OTHER INCARNATIONS

Upon transferring to 54 Below, the series proved so successful that several incarnations were added to the venue’s schedule. These have included A Little Night Music for Company, Assassins in the Park with George, Anyone Can Whistle Follies, and the annual Into Sweeney Todd’s Woods, which continues to play at the venue each Halloween. These “special editions” include only music from the musicals mentioned in their respective show titles.
 

AWARDS

Sondheim Unplugged has been awarded the 2011 Backstage Bistro Award for Outstanding Cabaret Series, as well as the 2013 BroadwayWorld Award for Outstanding Recurring Series (accepted by Tony-winner, Alice Ripley). Sondheim Unplugged was also nominated for the 2011 MAC (Manhattan Association of Clubs) Award for “Show of the Year.”
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FILMED VERSIONS

When Feinstein’s/54 Below was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020/21, the venue asked Sondheim Unplugged to participate in their “54 Premieres” series, which were a series of performances filmed at the venue to empty houses while observing careful safety protocols, then streamed globally. Starring Darius de Haas, Natalie Douglas, Telly Leung, T. Oliver Reid, Nicholas Rodriguez and Lucia Spina, the event was hosted by Bond, with Joe Goodrich at the piano. The production was filmed by Ordinary Sunday Productions and produced by Above Deck Entertainment, and streamed from December 26, 2020 - January 9, 2021, with a further extension of January 9 - 23, 2021 due to popular demand.
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The NY Times said of the filmed version of Sondheim Unplugged: "Elegant, consoling, peppered with deadpan humor... High points include Telly Leung's heartstring-plucking Being Alive, Lucia Spina's soothingly angry Could I Leave You? and T. Oliver Reid's exquisitely regretful Good Thing Going... Pour a glass of something bubbly and enjoy.” While BroadwayWorld said “Sondheim Unplugged isn't just one of the most entertaining shows in New York City — it's one of the most important. This is a stellar and starry cast... the kind of impeccable casting fans have come to expect from Phil Geoffrey Bond. They are all sublimely talented musicians and crackerjack actors — both gifts that, when combined, add up to some noteworthy entertainment.”
An earlier performance of Sondheim Unplugged from September 17, 2017 was filmed by 54 Below staff and also streamed as part of the 54 at Home series on March 29th, 2020, during the early days of the pandemic. That performance featured Jeremy Abram, Lane Bradbury, Marquee Five, Eric Michael Gillett, Adam West Hemming, Blaine Krauss, Sarah Rice, Marta Sanders, Tally Sessions, Lucia Spina and Melanie Vaughan.
A special performance in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 92nd birthday will be live-streamed from Feinstein’s/54 Below on March 22, 2022.
 

SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED:
THE NYC SESSIONS

Also during the COVID-19 crises, when Sondheim Unplugged was placed on hiatus for the first time in its (then) ten year history, the company went to work on a series of cast recordings, featuring highlights from the past decade of the show’s existence.

The recordings will be released on the Yellow Sound Label in three volumes, beginning on December 1, 2021 (Volume I), and continuing on March 22, 2022 (Volume II) and June I, 2022 (Volume III).
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COMPANY

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At each performance, there are usually one or more special guests, each of whom created a role in a Sondheim musical or starred in a notable revival. Special guests have included:
George Lee Andrews (A Little Night Music’s original Frid, Frederik in 1990 New York City Opera revival).
Lane Bradbury (Gypsy’s original Dainty June).
Len Cariou (A Little Night Music’s original Fredrik, Sweeney Todd’s original Sweeney)
George Dvorsky (Passion’s original Augenti).
Daisy Eagan (Sondheim at Carnegie Hall).
Claybourne Elder (Soldier/Alex in Sunday in the Park with George 2017 Broadway revival, Andy in 2021 Company Broadway revival)
Steve Elmore (Company’s original Paul)
Harvey Evans (Follies’ original Young Buddy, Anyone Can Whistle, West Side Story, Gypsy original Broadway companies).
Danielle Ferland (Into the Woods’ original Little Red Riding Hood, Sunday in the Park with George’s original Boy/Louise, Fredrika, 1990 NYC Opera production of A Little Night Music).
Joy Franz (Into the Woods’ original Stepmother)
Eric Michael Gillett (Broadway’s The Frogs).
Joanna Gleason (Into the Woods’ original Baker’s Wife)
Annie Golden (Assassins’ original Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme).
Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (Henrik, 2009 Broadway revival of A Little Night  Music).
Mary Jane Houdina (Follies’ original Young Hattie, assistant to Michael  Bennett).
Dee Hoty (Phyllis, Paper Mill Playhouse revival of Follies)
Ken Jennings (Sweeney Todd’s original Tobias). 
Pamela Winslow Kashani (Into the Woods’ original Rapunzel).
Telly Leung (Pacific Overtures 2004 revival)
Karen Mason (Rose, Sundance Theatre’s Gypsy)
Sally Mayes (Rose, Harbour Lights Theatre’s Gypsy)
Victoria Mallory (A Little Night Music’s original Anne, Follies original Young Heidi).
Liz McCartney (Mrs./Harriet, 2017 Sunday in the Park with George Broadway revival).
Donna McKechnie (Company’s original Kathy, Sally in Papermill Playhouse revival of Follies). 
Crista Moore (Louise, 1999 Broadway revival of Gypsy).
Ann Morrison (Merrily We Roll Along’s original Mary).
Pamela Myers (Company’s original Marta)
Manu Narayan (Charley, Roundabout Theatre’s 2019 rival of Merrily We Roll Along; Theo, 2021 Broadway revival of Company).
Marni Nixon (singing voice of Maria in West Side Story motion picture, 2001 Broadway revival of Follies).
Kurt Peterson (Follies original Young Ben).
Teri Ralston (Company’s original Jenny, A Little Night Music’s original Mrs. Nordstrom)
Sarah Rice (Sweeney Todd’s original Johanna).
Leenya Rideout (Jenny, 2006 Broadway revival of Company)
Alice Ripley (Amy, Kennedy Center’s 2002 revival of Company).
Bruce Sabath (Larry, 2006 Broadway revival of Company)
Emily Skinner (Broadway’s Prince of Broadway, Phyllis is Follies at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, The Witch in Into the Woods at  Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars)
Elizabeth Stanely (April, 2006 Broadway revival of Company)
Melanie Vaughan (Sunday in the Park with George’s original Celeste #1/ Waitress)
Jim Walton (Merrily We Roll Along’s original Franklin Shepard, Sweeney Todd 1989 Broadway revival).
Teri White (Stella, 2011 Broadway revival of Follies).
Chip Zien (Into the Woods’ original Baker).