Side by Side by Sondheim: a star-studded event

Ruthie Henshall Losing My Mind
Ruthie Henshall sings Losing My Mind at Side By Side By Sondheim. Image by Blueprint Studios

Last Friday, some of the brightest stars in musical theatre (internationally, and I’m not just talking about special guest Ruthie Henshall here) took to the stage in a stunning array of voices, Side by Side by Sondheim style.

Soon to be a touring spectacular with dates in New South Wales, ACT and Victoria, Sydney’s offering at the Theatre Royal was a one night only affair with an impressive cast list, topped off with headlining guest Ruthie Henshall, well known both on Broadway and the West End for her success in shows like Les Miserables and Chicago.

But it wasn’t just Ruthie Henshall with an admirable reputation in the theatre. Other cast members included Amanda Muggleton (Shirley Valentine), Peter Cousens (Miss Saigon), Helen Dallimore (Into The Woods), Lucy Durack (Wicked), and even cabaret superstar Meow Meow… and many, many more.

And it was all for support of a good cause. Producer Enda Markey wove together this revue to benefit the White Ribbon Foundation, Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women. And there’s something special about coming together for a cause and using the arts as a vehicle to do it.

While the narrators were themselves a star-studded bunch: Jessica Rowe, White Ribbon Ambassador Andrew O’Keefe, Judy Nunn, Bruce Venables, and Paula Duncan there were only two real stars of the night: Sondheim’s songs and the voices that gave them to us.

Headliner of the night Ruthie Henshall performed with that remarkable sense of effortlessness that comes with real skill. When someone makes a song like ‘Send in the Clowns’ or ‘Broadway Baby’ look easy – and they’re not – you’re in the presence of someone truly remarkable.

[pull_left]The whole cast was absolutely top-notch, and served as a real reminder that our industry is full of people with significant talent.[/pull_left]

The whole cast was absolutely top-notch, and served as a real reminder that our industry is full of people with significant talent.

Like Rachael Beck and Michael Falzon, who turned their on-stage chemistry from Squabbalogic’s recent Ordinary Days to an incredibly funny and on-point ‘The Little Things You Do Together’, or Stephen Mahy (Jersey Boys), who sang the beautiful ‘Marry Me a Little’ with conviction and skill, or Lara Mulcahy (Mamma Mia), who stole the show and ran off with it in numbers like ‘Getting Married Today’, or Anna O’Byrne (Love Never Dies) and Alinta Chidzey’s (West Side Story) ‘A Boy Like That/I Have a Love’ which was just breathtaking.

The applause for this show managed to be both warm and thunderous at the same time. We were happy to support the cause and we were glad we were there, as the standing ovation at curtain call could attest. Not only is the music theatre industry in Australia incredibly talented – it also has a big heart, and Side by Side by Sondheim was a perfect example of both of those things, wrapped up in the works of probably the best composer and lyricist of our time.

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Cassie is a theatre critic and arts writer in Sydney, and is the deputy editor of AussieTheatre. She has written for The Guardian, Time Out Sydney, Daily Review, and BroadwayWorld Australia. She is a voter for the Sydney Theatre Awards.

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Follow Cassie: @cassietongue