May 25th, 2024

Stephen Sondheim’s connection to Fran Rude and Lethbridge remembered

By Letter to the Editor on December 2, 2021.

Stephen Sondheim was not just a great artist, he was also a great man.
There has been a great deal written about the great Stephen Sondheim who died on Nov. 26 at the age of 91.
Most of these articles deal with his greatness as an artist, but there is one story that attests to his greatness as a person. It is a story that starts in Lethbridge, Alberta, travels to Broadway and circles back to Lethbridge.
Years ago, I was performing in New York City, when I received a message from a childhood friend of mine, Mark Campbell. Mark was doing a community theatre production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” back in my hometown of Lethbridge.
The director of the show was Fran Rude whose husband Vic, was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.
Vic’s condition was so advanced, it made it difficult for him to recognize his wife. The one thing that did lift Vic’s spirits was when Fran played him Stephen’s music.
Mark asked me if there was any way I could help him get in touch with Mr. Sondheim so that he could tell him how much his music meant to Fran and her husband.
Mark suspected it was a long shot, but as it turned out, Mr. Sondheim had been to see the Broadway show I was in (“Slava’s Snow Show”) a few weeks earlier.
In fact, my producer knew Stephen and when I told him about Mark’s request, he provided me Mr. Sondheim’s mailing address.
Mark wrote a letter to Stephen to let him know how much his music meant to Fran and what a positive impact it had on Vic. After the letter was mailed, Mark forgot all about it.
That was until the day that “A Little Night Music” was set to open at The Yates Memorial Centre in Lethbridge. Mark went to his mailbox and found a letter postmarked from New York City.
On opening night, Mark presented a handwritten letter from the great Stephen Sondheim wishing Fran Rude and the cast a good luck on their run of “A Little Night Music.”
To me, this story belongs with all the international accolades about this great songwriter. Along with Mark, Fran, and Vic, I would like to say thank you Stephen Sondheim, for all of your work and for your wonderful humanity.
As a sort of kismet epilogue, when we returned to Broadway for a second run of “Slava’s Snow Show” a few years ago, we played at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
Derek Scott

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