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Stephen Sondheim: From Apprentice to Master

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Sam Martin

on 17 May 2013

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Transcript of Stephen Sondheim: From Apprentice to Master

From Apprentice to Master Stephen Sondheim Born Stephen Joshua Sondheim on 22nd March 1930 The Hammersteins College The Beginning The only child of Etta Fox and Herbert Sondheim Etta designed dresses, Herbert sold them The family grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan Upper Class - Mega Rich! Stephen was sent to a number of boarding and military schools This sucks Described himself as an "emotionally neglected child" At age 10, Sondheim's father left, abandoning the family Childhood Herbert remarried and had children with his new wife His mother took out her pain on Sondheim - becoming controlling and over-protective Sondheim never forgave her, and didn't attend her funeral when she died. Etta, Sondheim's mother was obsessed with celebrities The sondheims moved next door to the Hammerstein family Stephen became friends with James Hammerstein, Oscar's son Oscar Hammerstein became a surrogate father figure to Sondheim I'll be your daddy, Stephen Yay! Can you teach me stuff too? Mentoring with Hammerstein Hammerstein introduced Sondheim to Musical Theatre Sondheim was invited to the world premiere of South Pacific, where he met famous director Harold (Hal) Prince. Inspired by what he saw, he wrote his first musical, "By George!" Hammerstein hated it, but offered to mentor the obviously talented Sondheim Hammerstein constructed a course on how to write musicals The Four Musicals Sondheim was asked to write four new musicals for Hammerstein: One based on a play he admired (All That Glitters)
One based on a play he liked, but thought was flawed (High Tor)
One based on a novel or short story (Bad Tuesday)
An original musical (Climb High) None of the musicals were produced at the time, and only All that Glitters and Climb High have ever been performed. Sondheim attended Williams College, Mass. Sondheim studied Lyrics and composition under, Milton Babbit The two had a very strong teacher-pupil relationship Sondheim developed a passion for finding a formula for writing musical showtunes After leaving college, he struggled to find work 1954 - Wrote lyrics for "Saturday Night" which wasn't performed until 1997 1957 Sondheim was offered a chance to write lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's new musical, West Side Story West Side Story was a huge success, running for 732 Broadway performances The 1960's GYPSY 1962 A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum Anyone Can Whistle 1964 1965 1959 Following his success, he was invited to write lyrics for Gypsy He almost turned it down, as he wanted to compose the music too - Hammerstein had to persuade him It would have been a huge mistake!!! Gypsy was a huge success

It ran for 702 Broadway performances

Nominated for 8 Tony Awards It has since won 6 for its various rivavals Based on Greek Tragedy, but given a humourous and witty twist Another massive success

Ran for 964 Broadway performances

Won 5 Tony Awards (including Best Musical - but none for Sondheim's score or lyrics Sondheim was criticised for not integrating the songs fully into the action Tells the story of citizens of a bankrupt town trying to save it The show was a disaster

Slated by critics

Closed after 9 performances But it did introduce the world to Angela Lansbury Do I Hear a Waltz? Sondheim wrote the lyrics for Richard Rodgers Another failure

Never made it to Broadway

Sondheim regretted being a part of it

He felt it was an anti-climax to Rodgers' career The 1970's Company 1970 1975 A Little Night Music By Bernstein! 1973 Pacific Overtures 1976 Sweeney Todd 1979 A series of vignettes in a non-linear structure. No through-line of plot A big hit
702 Performances on Broadway
Winning 6 Tony Awards The first Broadway musical to be written entirely in waltz time Another big hit!

Ran for 602 Broadway performances

Won 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical And another personal Tony Award for Sondheim! Wrote lyrics for tribute show to his first employer Ambitious musical telling the story of the westernisation of Japan Praised by critics for its ambition

Audience numbers didn't reflect the critical success

Closed after 193 performances

Nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning only Costume and Scenic Design His most dark and operatic score to date Starred Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett.

Another hit - 557 Broadway performances

Nominated for 9 Tony Awards, winning 8 And another individual award for Sondheim's score 1981 - Another Failure Sondheim's "Merrily We Roll Along" fails on Broadway, closing after 16 performances Sondheim is devastated by the failure

He felt it was his best musical score to date

Sondheim becomes depressed... I'm sad He vows to quit musical theatre forever Sondheim meets an avantagarde producer called James Lapine, who convinces him to write a new musical! The 1980's Sunday in the Park with George 1984 1989 Into the Woods Assassins 1987 Based on the life of Painter, George Seurat Critical reviews were mixed

Audiences enjoyed it - it ran for 604 Performances

Was largely overlooked at the Tony Awards, only winning two for design

Sondheim won the Pulitzer Prize! Based on children's fairytales Another massive success

Ran for 765 performances on Broadway

Nominated for 10 Tony Awards, Winning 3 And another individual Tony Award for Sondheim's score! Tells the story of famous US Presidential Assassins Huge critical success off-Broadway

Never really translated into commercial succcess

Revived in 2004, winning 4 Tony Awards 1994 Sondheim writes "Passion" - his last collaboration with James Lapine Had a short run on Broadway - 280 Performances

Nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning 4 - including Best Musical

Sondheim wins another individual Tony Award The shortest ever run for a winning Musical The Enigma Sondheim arguably hasn't had massive success since the 1970 & 80's
He is criticised for over-complicating his musical scores
But he is seen as a Broadway legend
He has a lifetime achievement Tony Award, an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize
He even has a Broadway Theatre named after him But he hasn't created significant work since 1994 AUDIENCES LOVE SONDHEIM'S PAST, NOT HIS PRESENT
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