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Stephen Sondheim Has Died

Discussion in 'RF Memorials' started by Revoltingest, Nov 26, 2021.

  1. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Abnormal before it was fashionable
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    The guy had a way with words.
    RIP, dude.

    Stephen Sondheim, Titan of the American Musical, Is Dead at 91
    Excerpted....
    He was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century and the driving force behind some of Broadway’s most beloved and celebrated shows.

    Stephen Sondheim, one of Broadway history’s songwriting titans, whose music and lyrics raised and reset the artistic standard for the American stage musical, died early Friday at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 91.

    His lawyer and friend, F. Richard Pappas, announced the death, which he described as sudden. The day before, Mr. Sondheim had celebrated Thanksgiving with a dinner with friends in Roxbury, Mr. Pappas said.

    An intellectually rigorous artist who perpetually sought new creative paths, Mr. Sondheim was the theater’s most revered and influential composer-lyricist of the last half of the 20th century, if not its most popular.

    His work melded words and music in a way that enhanced them both. From his earliest successes in the late 1950s, when he wrote the lyrics for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy,” through the 1990s, when he wrote the music and lyrics for two audacious musicals, “Assassins,” giving voice to the men and women who killed or tried to kill American presidents, and “Passion,” an operatic probe into the nature of true love, he was a relentlessly innovative theatrical force.

    The first Broadway show for which Mr. Sondheim wrote both the words and music, the farcical 1962 comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” won a Tony Award for best musical and went on to run for more than two years.

    In the 1970s and 1980s, his most productive period, he turned out a series of strikingly original and varied works, including “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984) and “Into the Woods” (1987).

    In the history of the theater, only a handful could call Mr. Sondheim peer. The list of major theater composers who wrote words to accompany their own scores (and vice versa) is a short one — it includes Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Jerry Herman and Noël Coward.

    Though Mr. Sondheim spent long hours in solitary labor, usually late at night, when he was composing or writing, he often spoke lovingly of the collaborative nature of the theater. After the first decade of his career, he was never again a writer for hire, and his contribution to a show was always integral to its conception and execution. He chose collaborators — notably the producer and director Hal Prince, the orchestrator Jonathan Tunick and later the writer and director James Lapine — who shared his ambition to stretch the musical form beyond the bounds of only entertainment.

    Mr. Sondheim’s music was always recognizable as his own, and yet he was dazzlingly versatile. His melodies could be deceptively, disarmingly simple — like the title song of the unsuccessful 1964 musical “Anyone Can Whistle,” “Our Time,” from “Merrily,” and the most famous of his individual songs, “Send In the Clowns,” from “Night Music” — or jaunty and whimsical, like “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid,” from “Forum.”

    They could also be brassy and bitter, like “The Ladies Who Lunch,” from “Company,” or sweeping, like the grandly macabre waltz “A Little Priest,” from “Sweeney Todd.” And they could be exotic, like “Someone in a Tree” and “Pretty Lady,” both from “Pacific Overtures,” or desperately yearning, like the plaintive “I Read,” from “Passion.”

    Tonys and a Pulitzer
    He wrote speechifying soliloquies, conversational duets and chattery trios and quartets. He exploited time signatures and forms; for “Night Music,” he wrote a waltz, two sarabandes, two mazurkas, a polonaise, an étude and a gigue — nearly an entire score written in permutations of triple time.

    Over all, he wrote both the music and the lyrics for a dozen Broadway shows — not including compendium revues like “Side by Side by Sondheim,” “Putting It Together” and the autobiographical “Sondheim on Sondheim.” Five of them won Tony Awards for best musical, and six won for best original score. A show that won neither of those, “Sunday in the Park,” took the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
     
    #1 Revoltingest, Nov 26, 2021
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2021
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  2. blü 2

    blü 2 Well-Known Member
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    I'm not familiar with all his works, but of those I've seen, A Little Night Music was the best ─ 'Send in the Clowns', as you mention ─ and A Funny Thing Happened (I only saw the movie) was also right up there. Sweeney Todd was clever and not bad on stage, but the movie was awful. I didn't think much of Into the Woods either, but given the various revivals, that may have been the production I saw. And so on.

    Goodnight to a man of special and singular genius.
     
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