For one night only, Dame Judi to perform at the Proms

Those lucky enough to have secured themselves a ticket for the Stephen Sondheim Prom – one of the first and fastest to sell out – did so knowing that the great American composer was planning to turn up to take a bow.

Now, days before the event on Saturday evening, the actress Dame Judi Dench has revealed that she will also be taking a turn on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, belting out a classic Sondheim number in a surprise performance.

Dame Judi, a veteran of the stage who has picked up most of the accolades available to her over a long and illustrious career, is not known for her singing voice. The last time she performed a song on stage was in 1995, although she did leave a good impression on reviewers when she took a lead role in the musical Cabaret in 1968.

Yesterday she confessed she was a little "daunted" by the prospect of performing in front of just under 6,000 people at the classical music concert, which is devoted to the music of the Broadway legend, who is celebrating his 80th birthday this year.

"Singing at the Proms is not something I ever imagined I would do and it's a hugely exciting – if slightly daunting – prospect. I believe that Stephen Sondheim is truly a genius. His impact on musical theatre can never be overstated and I am delighted to be part of his 80th birthday celebrations," she said.

Roger Wright, director of the BBC Proms, told The Independent that he had asked Dame Judi to make her debut at the Royal Albert Hall based on her legendary performance of the song "Send in the Clowns" in 1995, at the National Theatre.

"There are a great range of actor-singers and singer-actors that have performed Sondheim's music over the years. Dame Judi's version of 'Send in the Clowns' is one of the most renowned, and alongside Simon Russell Beale, Maria Friedman and Bryn Terfel, she was a natural choice for this concert. She has given us one of the greatest interpretations of this particular song," he said.

Her rendition of this song, from the musical A Little Night Music, also captivated Sondheim himself, who watched her perform and reportedly said to her of her role as Desirée: "It's yours now."

The ballad is taken from the second act, in which Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life. Sondheim originally wrote it for the actress Glynis Johns on Broadway, but it quickly became his most popular song after Judy Collins and Frank Sinatra recorded it in 1975.

The likes of Grace Jones, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Zarah Leander and the Tiger Lillies have recorded their own versions since.

In a television interview, Dame Judi once described the musical as "a dark play about people who, at the beginning, are with wrong partners and in the end, it is hopefully going to become right ..."

Of her turn as Desirée, one critic wrote: "Great singers have sung 'Send in the Clowns'. Yet none has given either the role, or Sondheim's enduring anthem to disappointment, quite the edge of irony, wit or sudden vulnerability which Dame Judi Dench brings to both."

The rest of the line-up for the Sondheim celebration includes Bryn Terfel, Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Evans, Maria Friedman, Caroline O'Connor, Julian Ovenden and Jenna Russell. They are joined by a chorus of singers from the BBC Performing Arts Fund and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The conductor, David Charles Abell, has chosen to use many of the original orchestrations which have often been reduced in size when shows have been revived for contemporary audiences.

"The original productions of Sondheim's shows had opulent orchestrations played by what are now considered to be large pit orchestras. Where better to restore these orchestrations to their original glory than at the Proms?" he said.

The programme will include songs from Follies, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, The Frogs, Company, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Sweeney Todd.

Other stars with musical ambitions

Jack Black

Best known for his comedic roles in films such as 2003's School of Rock and Tropic Thunder in 2008, Black has also gained recognition as a member of the band Tenacious D. Calling his ensemble the "greatest rock band in the world", the actor has helped to create his own brand of "mock rock", (as critics have since termed it). The band has achieved considerable success, with the single "Tribute", reaching No 4 in the Australian charts.

Keanu Reeves

The Hollywood actor of The Matrix fame has also dipped a toe into the music industry with his grunge band Dogstar. Formed in the 1990s, the band opened for the popular group Bon Jovi and appeared in concerts alongside artists such as David Bowie. An avid bass guitarist, Reeves continues to play and provide backing vocals alongside former band mates with the group Becky.

Catherine Zeta-Jones

The Welsh actress and wife of Michael Douglas has had numerous musical successes in addition to a prolific acting career, displaying impressive vocal ability in the 2004 screen adaptation of Chicago, for which she won an Oscar, Bafta Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Zeta-Jones built on this success, starring as Desirée in the hit Broadway musical, A Little Night Music. In June 2010, she won a Tony Award for the role.

Ewan McGregor

Better known for lead roles in films such as Trainspotting and Star Wars, Ewan McGregor is also a heavyweight in musical theatre. He starred in the hit 2001 film, Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman, and in 2005 the Scottish actor ventured into the West End for a run as the lead in the hit musical Guys and Dolls. The turn won him an Olivier Award nomination for best actor in a musical.

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game