There was perhaps no better way to kickoff the latest Broadway season than to usher in a new era in Times Square with a celebration of the preeminent composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. The creator of such classic musicals as Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum joined the ranks of theatrical legends with the naming of a Broadway theatre in his honor -- the newly christened Stephen Sondheim Theatre's marquee was illuminated for the first time last night in a star-studded ceremony on its front steps.
Sondheim was on hand to flip the switch, but not before telling all those in attendance of his gratitude for the honor of having a Broadway house named after him. "I'm deeply embarrassed, I'm thrilled but deeply embarrassed, partly because I've always hated my last name," the composer said. He compared his name to the likes of Belasco and Rodgers, two other famous theatrical powerhouses with theaters named after them.
While Sondheim remained humbled, and at one point brought to tears, actor Nathan Lane didn't hesitate to point out the stark contrast between a theatre being named after someone like Sondheim rather than a corporate entity, as has sometimes been the case on the Rialto.
"Don't take this the wrong way, but this is so much more moving to christen the theatre the Stephen Sondheim as opposed to the British Petroleum Playhouse, or the McNugget, if you know what I mean..." Lane joked. "There is something about this that is right and just. I couldn't think of someone more worthy of this great honor than Steve."
Lane's jab came on the heels of a recent Broadway theatre re-branding, which saw the former Hilton Theatre get slapped with another corporate name, Foxwoods.
I had the chance to attend Wednesday night's lighting ceremony and shoot video of the entire affair. Watch below:
The Stephen Sondheim Theatre, formerly known as the Henry Miller Theatre, located on 43rd Street, will house its first production beginning in October, The Pee-wee Herman Show.
Follow James Sims on Twitter: www.twitter.com/simsjames