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Stephen Sondheim's 'Send in the Clowns' -- a YouTube survey

August 2, 2010 | 11:38 am

Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" is one of the composer's most beloved musicals, and it contains what is perhaps the most famous song he has ever written -- "Send in the Clowns."

A melancholy aria about longing and middle-age regret, "Send in the Clowns" is considered one of the great showpieces for stage actresses of a certain age. The number is often performed in a sing-speak style that makes it ideal for performers who may not have the best singing voices but who know how to act their way through a song.

Bernadette Peters, who recently took over the role of Desiree from Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Broadway revival of "A Little Night Music," is the latest actress to put her signature stamp on "Send in the Clowns." 

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times recently praised Peters' rendition, writing: "I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced with such palpable force -- or such prominent goose bumps -- the sense of being present at an indelible moment in the history of musical theater."

When Zeta-Jones performed the song at the Tony Awards in June, many viewers voiced their disapproval of her histrionic style via Twitter, Facebook and other social-networking sites. "Why is Catherine Zeta Jones singing Send In The Clowns like a mental patient who just got her meds?" wrote one tweeter.

Other actresses who have performed the song -- in concert settings and in full productions-- include Glenn Close, Judi Dench, Barbra Streisand, Glynis Johns (the original Desiree on Broadway), Elizabeth Taylor and more.

 Thankfully, some of these versions have found their way to YouTube. Click through to view (the Close version is above) and let us know in the comments section who your favorite is.

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Updated: Bernadette Peters, performing "A Little Night Music" on Broadway

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Catherine Zeta-Jones, performing on Broadway

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Judi Dench, in a concert version

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Barbra Streisand, performing in Las Vegas

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Glynis Johns, re-creating her Broadway role as Desiree

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Elizabeth Taylor, in the 1977 film version of "A Little Night Music" (starting at the 5:00 mark)

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-- David Ng

Photo: Catherine Zeta-Jones performs "Send in the Clowns" at the Tony Awards. Credit: Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

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