Written by Emile Cardon, CNN
Popular pianist Stephen Sondheim, one of the most beloved theater composers of all time, has never been known for his shyness. That’s why when Sondheim has stepped into a bar in New York, audiences have been glued to their seats — at least for a few minutes.
In fact, Sondheim has performed a total of 19 times at a different bar within 24 hours, and none of these have been anything other than classic renditions of his well-known tunes — albeit improvised. Each weekend — Sondheim meets bar, starts doing a piano/songs version of “Broadway Babies” and “Company” and the show (and bar) is, well, over.
CNN visited Sondheim on the Weekend at The Wooden Heart in Soho on Friday, where he played an impromptu rendition of “Babes in Arms.” Following his performance, the bar staff wasted no time in pouring a pour of Pinot Grigio and, in the tradition of Sondheim, posted a tongue-in-cheek video of the performance online.
The video received a wave of attention on social media, as fans and Sondheim fans alike, shared a collective “Ewwww!”
“You must see this!!!” intoned one Twitter user. “A video of Stephen Sondheim putting “Babes in Arms” on piano has just been posted by a bar. I screamed. MY WATER MELTED.”
Another said, “I shed a few tears watching this. Woke up to find people celebrating #SondheimWeekend in NYC today. Not just magical, but moving.”
These are but a few of the hundreds of videos Sondheim has since posted to social media since his first performance in the early ’80s. Sondheim’s Thursday night gig at The Wooden Heart captured worldwide attention, and the bar addressed the request for a post on Facebook.
“An over excited live music instructor, Stephen Sondheim show-stopped at the Brokenshackle for a lightning-fast mix of ‘Broadway Babies’ and ‘Company’ before patrons in the packed bar reached for their knees,” the bar wrote. “The place was packed so enraptured that an outpouring of lyrics was rolling out of his mouth like sunshine.”
Bar staffers declined to take photos during the performance, so CNN visited the bar again on Saturday to catch the inspiration for Sondheim’s impromptu performances. In the video below, he plays a rousing, intense rendition of “Close Every Door,” a classic song from his 1974 production “Follies.”