Impromptu Stephen Sondheim Wakes Fill Piano Bars With Tears and Tunes

Impromptu Stephen Sondheim Wakes Fill Piano Bars With Tears and Tunes
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Across the street from Marie’s, the mood was decidedly more raucous at the Duplex, where an ad hoc reunion of “Mostly Sondheim,” an open mic that ended a 12-year run in 2016, was underway. Inside, musical-theater insider jokes freely mixed with raunchy profanity and references to “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” The appreciative room fell into a hush at all the right moments, though, as when the music director Brian Nash teared up during the spoken opening of “Sunday in the Park With George.”

“See, I’m crying so hard, ” he said. Then he and hosts Emily McNamara and Marty Thomas went straight into the upbeat “Comedy Tonight.”

Shortly after hearing the day’s news, Mr. Nash decided to bring back “Mostly Sondheim.” Luckily, the upstairs cabaret at the Duplex, a few doors down from the Stonewall Inn, was available. “It seemed important to hold a space for folks to feel whatever they needed to, to sing and cry and laugh and be with people who understood what a loss this was to those who love theater,” he said in an email sent near dawn.

He had no problem rallying the troops.

“I was so ready to go home and go to bed,” said Ms. McNamara, who had been at a big family gathering in New Jersey. “But when Brian called me I was like, ‘I’ll chug some caffeine, put on some lashes, and let’s go!’ ”

There was trivia: “Now we’re going to find if there are actual nerds in the room: On what song did Sondheim write the lyrics under the pen name Esteban Río Nido?”(Answer: “The Boy From …” with music by Mary Rodgers.) And there were reminiscences about first encounters with Sondheim, and of high school performances.

And even those stuck at home could join in when Telly Leung (who was once in a Broadway revival of “Pacific Overtures”) encouraged the crowd to sing along to “Not a Day Goes By” — the event was livestreamed on Facebook. (A commenter rejoiced: “I am trapped in Delaware with no access to a piano bar. Thank you Brian and all for bringing the tribe to me.”)

Others mourned and celebrated Mr. Sondheim at the theater: he had shows running on Broadway and off when he died, and Friday night’s performances were exceptionally emotional.

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