Choral Artists of Sarasota Presents “Celebrating Sondheim”

Saturday, January 18  Riverview Performing Arts Center

A free “Concert Insights” event is Tuesday, January 7

This tribute to Stephen Sondheim, who is celebrating his 90th birthday this year, features songs from such beloved Broadway shows as A Little Night Music, Company, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George. Soloists include Ann Morrison, who starred on Broadway in Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Harold Prince, and several other Sondheim plays.

 (Sarasota, FL) Choral Artists of Sarasota continues its 41st season with “Celebrating Sondheim,” Saturday, January 18, 4 p.m., at Riverview Performing Arts Center, 1 Ram Way, Sarasota. This tribute to Stephen Sondheim, who is celebrating his 90th birthday this year, features his music from such acclaimed Broadway shows as A Little Night Music, Company, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George. Renowned musical theater artists Ann Morrison, Amy Jo Connours, Michaela Ristaino, Ben Pattison, and Matthew Nall will join the 40 singers of Choral Artists of Sarasota in this concert. “In celebrating Sondheim in his 90th year, this performance allows us to present a retrospective of his most iconic works alongside some musical gems that will touch a chord in all of us,” says Joseph Holt, artistic director. “Sondheim has the gift to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.” Tickets are $28 to $45; $5 for students.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 941-387-4900. A free Concert Insights event, which offers audiences the opportunity to learn about the artistic director’s insights about the program theme and music—and a chance to meet soloist Ann Morrison —is Tuesday, January 7, 10 a.m., at Center for Arts and Humanity, 1226 N. Tamiami Trail. The event is free but please register online or by phone as seating is limited.

Through a long career peppered with many successes and failures, composer Stephen Sondheim penned some of the most iconic songs from Broadway over the past 60 years and is credited with creating the modern American musical. His mentors were the giants of the art form in mid-century America, including Leonard Bernstein, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Richard Rodgers, and his later collaborations with Hal Prince secured his place as a creator of incredible merit and insight.

“Sondheim’s music became an integral part of the dramatic process and he assumed full control artistically by being both lyricist and composer for his musicals,” says Joseph Holt, who is directing this production. “The synthesis of music with drama in the American musical created an artform that is somewhat reminiscent of operatic works that date from the late 19th- and early 20th- centuries. The standard formula of song and dialogue morphed into more of an operatic experience in the process.”

Holt adds that Sondheim “touches our hearts, our souls with music and lyrics that express the human condition and challenge precepts. His music is expressive and emotional and, at times, deeply psychological in its impact. He understands people and what makes them tick. And his tunes stick with you—they become a part of our experience as human beings, not only as hummable tunes but as sound bites that compel us to think, gives us pause, make us wonder and, at times, cry. These are the attributes that I find most fascinating and satisfying.”

Ann Morrison is an award-winning actress, writer, teacher, and director. As an actress she starred on Broadway in Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, directed by Harold Prince (1982 Theatre World Award), and in LoveMusik (2007); London’s West End in Peg; Off-Broadway in the musical Goblin Market, and was an original cast member of Forbidden Broadway. Nationally, she has starred in Sondheim on Sondheim, Into the Woods, Peter Pan, Guys & Dolls, Cabaret, Oliver!, Sunset Boulevard, On A Clear Day, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Good News, Embarrassments, Anyone Can Whistle, among many other productions. As a solo artist, Morrison has performed cabaret in major venues across the country, most recently at Feinstein’s/54 Below in NYC. She won a Best Actress Award for her solo play Linda Lovely Goes to Broadway in the United Solo Festival in NYC, and appeared there again with her solo play, Word Painting: Soliloquies Around an Easel. Directing credits include both her solo play, Trevor’s Fire starring Blake Walton, and his solo play, Leading Men. Morrison is the co-founder and artistic director of Kaleidoscope, a musical theatre workshop for persons with developmental disabilities.

Originally from Wisconsin, Michaela Ristaino comes to Sarasota by way of Milwaukee and San Francisco. Hailed as a versatile performer who is just as at home on the music theatre stage as the opera stage, she was a frequent performer at Milwaukee’s Skylight Opera Theatre, where she was seen in such productions as White Christmas, South Pacific, The Mikado, A Little Night Music, The Most Happy Fella, and She Loves Me. In addition to the Skylight, Ristaino appeared with various performance

venues in the Milwaukee and San Francisco Bay areas. Favorite music theatre roles include The Baker’s Wife and Cinderella in Into the Woods, Adelaide in Guys & Dolls, and Maria in West Side Story. Favorite opera roles include the title role in Carlyle Floyd’s Susannah, Pamina in The Magic Flute, and Rose in Street Scene. She is thrilled to be stepping out of the soprano section and making her debut as a soloist with the Choral Artists for this very special tribute to one of her favorite composers.

Since 2012, Benjamin Pattison has been a tenor with The United States Army Chorus, performing for every president since Jimmy Carter and numerous heads of state. Prior to joining the Army Chorus, Pattison studied trumpet and voice at DePaul University and further vocal studies at the University of Maryland. He has appeared as the title role in Albert Herring with DePaul Opera Theatre, Bill Starbuck in 110 in the Shade, and Ralph Rackstraw in H.M.S. Pinafore with the Janiec Opera Company at the Brevard Music Center. Concert engagements include appearances with the National Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and at the 10th World Symposium on Choral Music in Seoul, South Korea. Outside of performing, Pattison is a music program director at two elementary schools with the nonprofit noteBUSTERS.

Matthew Nall has performed such roles as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Curly in Oklahoma, and Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol. In 2006, Nall became a baritone vocalist in The United States Army Chorus. Highlights of his career include performances for President Ford’s and President Bush’s state funerals, the Queen of England, and the Pope. He is also the music director of a performing arts school in Alexandria, Virginia.