Biography of

Stephen Sondheim

22 mar 1930 (New York) -
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Stephen Sondheim
Birth name Stephen Joshua Sondheim
Born March 22, 1930 (1930-03-22) (age 80)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Genres Musical theatre
Occupations Composer, lyricist
Years active 1954–present

Stephen Joshua Sondheim (born March 22, 1930) is an American composer and lyricist for stage and film. He is the winner of an Academy Award, multiple Tony Awards (eight, more than any other composer) including the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre,[1] multiple Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. His most famous scores include (as composer/lyricist) A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Assassins, as well as the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy. He was president of the Dramatists Guild from 1973 to 1981.


Early years

Sondheim was born to a Jewish family in New York City to Etta Janet (née Fox) and Herbert Sondheim.[2] He grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and later, after his parents divorced, on a farm near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Herbert, his father, was a dress manufacturer and Foxy, his mother, designed the dresses. As an only child of well-to-do parents living in The San Remo on Central Park West, he is described in Meryle Secrest's biography, Stephen Sondheim: A Life, as having had an isolated and emotionally neglected childhood. While living in New York, Stephen Sondheim attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School. Later, Sondheim attended George School, a private Quaker preparatory school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the New York Military Academy in 1946.

Sondheim traces his interest in theater to Very Warm for May, a Broadway musical he saw at age nine. "The curtain went up and revealed a piano," Sondheim recalled. "A butler took a duster and brushed it up, tinkling the keys. I thought that was thrilling."[3]

When Stephen was ten, his father, a distant figure, abandoned him and his mother. Stephen famously despised Foxy;[4] he once wrote a thank-you note to close friend Mary Rodgers that read, "Dear Mary and Hank, Thanks for the plate, but where was my mother's head? Love, Steve."[3] When his mother died in the spring of 1992, he did not attend her funeral.[4][5] His mother was allegedly psychologically abusive and distant,[6] using Sondheim as a form of replacement for his father: for example, she would hold his hand at movies. His father sought custody of Stephen, but because he had left Foxy for another woman (Alicia), his efforts failed. Herbert and Alicia had two sons together.


Mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II

At about the age of ten, around the time of his parents' divorce, Sondheim became friends with Jimmy Hammerstein, son of the lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. The elder Hammerstein became Sondheim's surrogate father, helping the young man stay away from home as much as possible. Hammerstein had a profound influence on the young Sondheim, especially in developing a love for musical theater. Indeed, it was at the opening of Hammerstein's hit show South Pacific that Sondheim met Harold Prince, who would later direct many of Sondheim's most famous shows. While at the George School, Sondheim wrote a comic musical based on the goings-on of his school, entitled By George. It was a major success among his peers, and it considerably buoyed the young songwriter's ego; he took it to Hammerstein, and asked him to evaluate it as though he had no knowledge of its author. Hammerstein said it was the worst thing he had ever seen. "But if you want to know why it's terrible," Hammerstein offered, "I'll tell you." The rest of the day was spent going over the musical, and Sondheim would later say that "in that afternoon I learned more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime."[7]

Thus began one of the most famous apprenticeships in the musical theatre, as Hammerstein designed a kind of course for Sondheim on the construction of a musical. This training centered around four assignments, which Sondheim was to write. These were musicals:

None of these "assignment" musicals were ever produced professionally. High Tor and Mary Poppins have never been produced at all, because the rights holders for the original works refused permission.

In 1950, Sondheim graduated magna cum laude from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. He went on to study composition with the composer Milton Babbitt. Sondheim says that when he asked Babbitt if he could study atonality, Babbitt replied “You haven’t exhausted tonal resources for yourself yet, so I’m not going to teach you atonal."[8] Sondheim agreed, and despite frequent dissonance and a highly chromatic style, his music remains resolutely tonal.

Move to Broadway and work as lyricist

"A few painful years of struggle" followed for Sondheim, during which he continually auditioned songs, living in his father's dining room to save money; he also spent time in Hollywood writing for the television series Topper.[3] He devoured 1940s and '50s films and has called cinema his "basic language."[4] (His film knowledge got him through The $64,000 Question contestant tryouts.) Ironically, Sondheim has expressed his dislike of movie musicals, favoring classic dramas like Citizen Kane, The Grapes of Wrath, and A Matter of Life and Death. He adds that "studio directors like Michael Curtiz and Raoul Walsh … were heroes of mine. They went from movie to movie to movie, and every third movie was good and every fifth movie was great. There wasn't any cultural pressure to make art."[9]

In 1954, Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics for Saturday Night, which was never produced on Broadway and was shelved until a 1997 production at London's Bridewell Theatre. In 1998 Saturday Night received a professional recording, followed by a revised version with two new songs and an Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre in 2000 and a full British premiere with the new songs due in 2009 at London's Jermyn Street Theatre.

Sondheim's big break came when he wrote the lyrics to West Side Story, lyricizing Leonard Bernstein's music and Arthur Laurents's book. The 1957 show, directed by Jerome Robbins, ran for 732 performances. While this may be the best-known show Sondheim ever worked on, he has expressed dissatisfaction with his lyrics, stating they don't always fit the characters and are sometimes too consciously poetic. It has been rumored that while Bernstein was off trying to fix the musical Candide, Sondheim wrote some of the music for West Side Story, and that Bernstein’s co-lyricist billing mysteriously disappeared from the credits of West Side Story during the tryout, presumably as a trade-off.[10]

In 1959, he wrote the lyrics for the musical, Gypsy. Sondheim would have liked to write the music as well, but Ethel Merman, the star, insisted on a composer with a track record. Thus, Jule Styne was hired.[11] Sondheim questioned if he should write only the lyrics for yet another show, but Hammerstein told him writing for a star would be valuable experience. Sondheim worked closely with book writer Arthur Laurents to create the show. It ran 702 performances.

Eventually Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics, for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It opened in 1962 and ran 964 performances. The book, based on the farces of Plautus, was written by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Sondheim's score was not especially well-received at the time. Even though the show won several Tony Awards, including best musical, Sondheim did not even receive a nomination. In addition, some critics felt the songs were not properly integrated into the farcical action.

At this point, Sondheim had participated in three straight hits. His next show ended the streak. Anyone Can Whistle (1964) was a 9-performance flop, although it introduced Angela Lansbury to musical theatre and has developed a cult following.

In 1965 he donned his lyricist-for-hire hat for one last show, Do I Hear a Waltz?, with music by Richard Rodgers—the one project he has since openly regretted.[4] In 1966, he semi-anonymously provided the lyric for "The Boy From …", a parody of "The Girl from Ipanema", a highlight of the off-Broadway revue The Mad Show. (The official songwriting credit went to the linguistically-minded pseudonym "Esteban Rio Nido", which translates from the Spanish to "Stephen River Nest". In the show's playbill, the lyrics are credited to "Nom De Plume".) In 1968, he wrote the lyrics for The Race to Urga, with Leonard Bernstein.

The collaborations with Hal Prince (1970–1981)

Since then Sondheim has devoted himself to both composing and writing lyrics for a series of varied and adventurous musicals, beginning with the innovative "concept musical" Company in 1970.

Sondheim's work is notable for his use of complex polyphony in the vocal parts, such as the chorus of five minor characters who function as a sort of Greek chorus in 1973's A Little Night Music. He also displays a penchant for angular harmonies and intricate melodies reminiscent of Bach (Sondheim has claimed that he "loves Bach" but his favorite period is Brahms to Stravinsky).[12] To aficionados, Sondheim's musical sophistication is considered to be greater than that of many of his musical theater peers, and his lyrics are likewise renowned for their ambiguity, wit, and urbanity.

Sondheim collaborated with producer/director Harold Prince on six musicals between 1970 and 1981. Company (1970) centered on a set of characters and themes rather than a straightforward plot. Follies (1971) was similarly-structured, filled with pastiche songs echoing styles of earlier composers. A Little Night Music (1973), a more traditionally plotted show based on the film Smiles of a Summer Night by Ingmar Bergman, was one of his greatest successes. Time magazine called it "Sondheim's most brilliant accomplishment to date."[13] Notably, the score was mostly composed in waltz time (either ¾ time, or multiples thereof.) Further success was accorded to A Little Night Music when "Send in the Clowns" became a hit single for Judy Collins. Although it was Sondheim's only Top 40 hit, his songs are frequently performed and recorded by cabaret artists and theatre singers in their solo careers.

By Bernstein premiered at the off-broadway Westside Theatre on November 23, 1975 and closed on December 7, 1975. It ran for 17 performances and 40 previews. The lyrics and music were by Leonard Bernstein, with additional lyrics from other lyricists, including Sondheim. It was conceived and written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The production was directed by Michael Bawtree with a cast of Jack Bittner, Margery Cohen, Jim Corti, Ed Dixon, Patricia Elliott, Kurt Peterson, and Janie Sell. The two known songs that had Sondheim contributions are "In There" from the adaption of The Exception and the Rule (which would later be named The Race to Urga) and a cut song from West Side Story "Kids Ain't (Like Everybody Else)".[14]

Pacific Overtures (1976) was the most non-traditional of the Sondheim-Prince collaborations, an intellectual exploration of the westernization of Japan. Sweeney Todd (1979), Sondheim's most operatic score and libretto (which, along with A Little Night Music, has been seen in opera houses), once again explores an unlikely topic, this time murderous revenge and cannibalism. The book, by Hugh Wheeler, is based on Christopher Bond's 1973 stage version of the Victorian original.[15][16][17][18][19]

Merrily We Roll Along (1981), with a book by George Furth, is one of Sondheim's more "traditional" scores and was thought to hold potential to generate some hit songs (Frank Sinatra and Carly Simon each recorded a different song from the show). Sondheim's music director, Paul Gemignani, said, “Part of Steve’s ability is this extraordinary versatility.” Merrily, however, was a 16-performance flop. "Merrily did not succeed, but its score endures thanks to subsequent productions and recordings. According to Martin Gottfried, "Sondheim had set out to write traditional songs… But [despite] that there is nothing ordinary about the music."[20] Sondheim and Furth have extensively revised the show since its initial opening.

The collaborations with James Lapine (1984–1994)

The failure of Merrily greatly affected Sondheim; he was ready to quit theater and do movies or create video games or write mysteries. He was later quoted as saying, "I wanted to find something to satisfy myself that does not involve Broadway and dealing with all those people who hate me and hate Hal."[21] The collaboration between Sondheim and Prince would largely end after Merrily - until the 2003 production of Bounce, another failure.

However, instead of quitting the theater following the failure of Merrily, Sondheim decided "that there are better places to start a show", and found a new collaborator in the "artsy" James Lapine. Lapine has a taste "for the avant-garde and for visually oriented theater in particular." Sunday in the Park with George (1984), their first collaboration, was avant-garde, but they approached it with the commercial theater's professionalism and made a real musical. Sondheim's music evoked the pointillist painting technique of its subject, Georges Seurat.

In 1985, he and Lapine won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. It is one of only eight musicals to receive this prestigious award. The show had its first revival on Broadway in 2008. The Sondheim-Lapine collaboration also produced the fairy-tale show Into the Woods (1987) and the rhapsodic Passion (1994). 1990 saw the opening of Sondheim's Assassins off-Broadway.

Later work

In the late nineties, Sondheim reunited with Hal Prince for Wise Guys, a long-in-the-works musical comedy about brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner. Though a Broadway production starring Nathan Lane and Victor Garber and directed by Sam Mendes was announced for Spring 2000,[22] the New York debut of the musical was delayed. Rechristened Bounce in 2003, the show was mounted at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.. Bounce received disappointing reviews and never reached Broadway. A revised version of Bounce premiered off-Broadway at The Public Theater under the new name Road Show from October 28, 2008 through December 28, 2008, under the direction of John Doyle.

Regarding his interest in writing new work, Sondheim was quoted in a 2006 Time Out: London interview as saying, "No... It's age. It's a diminution of energy and the worry that there are no new ideas. It’s also an increasing lack of confidence. I’m not the only one. I’ve checked with other people. People expect more of you and you’re aware of it and you shouldn’t be."[23] In December 2007, however, Sondheim said that, along with continued work on Bounce, he was "nibbling at a couple of things with John Weidman and James Lapine."[24]

According to a 2008 interview, he is working on a book of annotations of his lyrics. Sondheim said "It's going to be long. I'm not, by nature, a prose writer, but I'm literate, and I have a couple of people who are vetting it for me, whom I trust, who are excellent prose writers."[25][26] The first volume of his lyrics, titled Finishing the Hat: Volume One, will be published in Fall 2010; a second volume, Look, I Made a Hat: Volume Two, will follow.[27]

Lapine has created a "multimedia revue", formerly titled iSondheim: aMusical Revue, which had been scheduled to premiere in April 2009 at the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, Georgia. However that production was canceled, due to "difficulties encountered by the commercial producers attached to the raising the necessary funds".[28][29] A revised version, titled Sondheim on Sondheim is being produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, premiering on Broadway at Studio 54 in a limited engagement from March 19, 2010 in previews, opening April 22 through June 13. The cast features Barbara Cook, Vanessa L. Williams, Tom Wopat, Norm Lewis and Leslie Kritzer.[30]

In Conversation with Frank Rich

In March 2008, Sondheim and Frank Rich of the New York Times appeared in four interviews/conversations in California[31][32][33] and Portland, Oregon[34] titled "A Little Night Conversation with Stephen Sondheim".[35][36]

In September 2008, they appeared at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. The Cleveland Jewish News reported on the Oberlin event, writing: "Sondheim said: 'Movies are photographs; the stage is larger than life.' What musicals does Sondheim admire the most? Porgy and Bess tops a list which includes Carousel, She Loves Me, and The Wiz, which he saw six times. Sondheim took a dim view of today’s musicals. What works now, he said, are musicals that are easy to take; audiences don’t want to be challenged."[37][38]

An earlier conversation took place on April 28, 2002, during the Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center.[39][40]

Sondheim and Rich had more conversations on January 18, 2009 at Avery Fisher Hall,[41] on February 2, 2009 at the Landmark Theater, Richmond, Virginia,[42] on February 21, 2009 at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[43] and on April 20, 2009 at the University of Akron College of Fine and Applied Arts, EJ Thomas Hall, Akron, Ohio.[44] The conversations were reprised at Tufts and Brown Universities in February 2010 and the University of Tulsa in April 2010. [45]

Sondheim had an additional "conversation with" Sean Patrick Flahaven (associate editor of The Sondheim Review) at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, on February 4, 2009, during which he spoke of many of his songs and shows. "On the perennial struggles of Broadway: 'I don’t see any solution for Broadway's problems except subsidized theater, as in most civilized countries of the world.'"[46]

Work away from Broadway

Sondheim's mature career has been varied, encompassing much beyond composition of musicals.

An avid fan of games, in 1968 and 1969 Sondheim published a series of cryptic crossword puzzles in New York magazine. (In 1987, Time referred to his love of puzzlemaking as "legendary in theater circles," adding that the central character in Anthony Shaffer's hit play Sleuth was inspired by Sondheim. That the show was given the working title Who's Afraid of Stephen Sondheim? is an urban legend. In a New York Times interview on March 10, 1996, Shaffer denied ever using the title, and Sondheim speculated that it was the invention of producer Morton Gottlieb.)[3] He parlayed this talent into a film script, written with longtime friend Anthony Perkins, called The Last of Sheila. The 1973 film, directed by Herbert Ross, starred Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, and Richard Benjamin.

He tried his hand at playwriting one more time - in 1996 he collaborated with Company librettist George Furth on a play called Getting Away with Murder. It was not a success, and the Broadway production closed after 29 previews and 17 performances.

His compositional efforts have included a number of film scores, notably a set of songs written for Warren Beatty's 1990 film version of Dick Tracy; one song, "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)" (as performed by Madonna), won Sondheim an Academy Award.

Major works

Unless otherwise noted, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Revues and anthologies

Side By Side By Sondheim (1976), Marry Me A Little (1980), You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983) Putting It Together (1993), and Sondheim on Sondheim (2010) are anthologies or revues of Sondheim's work as composer and lyricist, featuring both songs performed and cut from productions. Jerome Robbins' Broadway features "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" from Gypsy, "Suite of Dances" from West Side Story, and "Comedy Tonight" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. A new revue, Secret Sondheim . . . a celebration of his lesser known work, conceived and directed by Tim McArthur, plays the Jermyn Street Theatre, London, in July 2010.[48]

Sondheim's work is also featured in The Madwoman of Central Park West, including the songs "Pretty Women" and "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid".[49]

Minor works


Film and TV

In 1976 Sondheim appeared, together with theater critic Frank Rich, John Weidman (book for "Pacific Overtures") and members of the original cast of "Pacific Overtures" in a television program titled "Anatomy of a Song." Sondheim plays piano as cast sings the song "Someone in a Tree". Sondheim discusses his working methods, the genesis of the show, and names "Someone in a Tree" his favorite song to date.

  • A Little Night Music, (1977) a movie adaptation of the stage work. Several of Sondheim's songs were dropped for the film version. However, he wrote a completely new song entitled "The Glamorous Life" to take the place of the song by the same name from the stage version. Sondheim also wrote new lyrics to "Night Waltz."
  • Music for the film Reds starring Warren Beatty (1981), including the song "Goodbye For Now."
  • Five songs for Warren Beatty's film Dick Tracy (1990), including "Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)", which won the Academy Award for Best Song.
  • Two songs for the film The Birdcage (1996) "It Takes All Kinds" (not used) and "Little Dream".
  • Cameo as himself in the 2003 film Camp.
  • Sondheim had a guest part on The Simpsons episode "Yokel Chords" as himself (2007).
  • Sweeney Todd, (2007) a movie adaptation of the stage work, made with Sondheim's participation and approval, was directed by Tim Burton, featuring a largely-nonmusical cast led by Johnny Depp (who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor) and Helena Bonham Carter. All choral numbers were cut in order to focus more on the primary characters. The movie, in the USA and abroad, grossed over $150 million.

Honors and awards

Sondheim at 80

Several benefits and concerts were performed to celebrate Sondheim's 80th birthday in 2010. Among them were the New York Philharmonic's Sondheim: The Birthday Concert, which was held March 15 and 16, 2010 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall and hosted by David Hyde Pierce. The concert included Sondheim music and songs performed, in some cases, by the original performers. Lonny Price directed, with Paul Gemignani conducting. A few of the many performers included Michael Cerveris, Joanna Gleason, Nathan Gunn, George Hearn, Patti LuPone, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, John McMartin, Donna Murphy, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch and Chip Zien.[50][51] The concert is scheduled for telecast on the PBS "Great Performances" show on November 24, 2010.[52]

The Roundabout Theatre Company benefit Sondheim 80 was held on March 22, 2010. The evening included a performance of Sondheim on Sondheim, plus dinner and a show at the New York Sheraton. There was "a very personal star-studded musical tribute" with new songs by contemporary musical theatre writers. The composers, who sang their own songs, included Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, Michael John LaChiusa, Andrew Lippa, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Lin-Manuel Miranda (accompanied by Rita Moreno), Duncan Sheik, and Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire. Bernadette Peters performed a song (unnamed) that was dropped from a Sondheim show.[53][54]

The New York City Center birthday celebration and benefit concert on April 26, 2010 featured about twenty principal performers from Sondheim's shows, such as Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Len Cariou, Raul Esparza, Joanna Gleason, Donna Murphy, and B. D. Wong, with direction by John Doyle and co-hosted by Mia Farrow. One of the beneficiaries of the concert was Young Playwrights Inc.[55][56]

On 31 July 2010, a BBC Proms concert was held to celebrate Sondheim's 80th Birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in London. It featured songs from many of his musicals, including a performance of "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music by Dame Judi Dench (reprising her role as Desirée from the 1995 production of that musical), and performances from many other stars of opera, Broadway, stage and screen, including Bryn Terfel and Maria Friedman.[57][58]


Sondheim has received the following honors:


He has won these awards:

Grammy Awards
  • Company (1970, Best Score from an Original Cast Album)
  • A Little Night Music (1973, Best Score from an Original Cast Album)
  • "Send in the Clowns" (1975, Song of the Year)
  • Sweeney Todd (1979, Best Cast Show Album)
  • Sunday in the Park With George (1984, Best Cast Show Album)
  • Into the Woods (1988, Best Musical Cast Show Album)
  • Passion (1994, Best Musical Cast Show Album)
  • West Side Story (2010, Best Musical Cast Show Album)
Tony Awards
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963, Best Musical)
  • Company (1971, Best Score, Best Lyrics)
  • Follies (1972, Best Score)
  • A Little Night Music (1973 Best Score)
  • Sweeney Todd (1979, Best Score)
  • Into The Woods (1988, Best Score)
  • Passion (1994 Best Score)
  • Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre (2008)
Drama Desk Awards
  • Company (1969–70, Best Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics)
  • Follies (1970–71, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics)
  • A Little Night Music (1972–73, Outstanding Music and Lyrics)
  • Sweeney Todd (1978–79, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics)
  • Sunday in the Park with George (1983–84, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics)
  • Into the Woods (1987–88, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lyrics)
  • Passion (1993–94, Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Music, Outstanding Lyrics)


Young Playwrights

This organization, founded by Sondheim in 1981, is intended to introduce young people to writing for the theatre. He is the Executive Vice President.[60]

The Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts

The Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts opened December 7–9, 2007, and is located at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center in Fairfield, Iowa. The Center opened with performances from seven Broadway performers, including Len Cariou, Liz Callaway, and Richard Kind, all of whom had taken part in the musicals of Sondheim.[61][62] The center is the first one in the world named after him, with a Broadway theater the second.

The Stephen Sondheim Society

In 1993 the Stephen Sondheim Society was set up to promote and provide information about the works of Stephen Sondheim. The Sondheim Review is a quarterly magazine devoted to Sondheim's work.[63] The Society aims to create a greater interest and appreciation of them by means of circulating information and providing a focal point where those interested can share such interests. It issues news, provides education, maintains a database of information, organizes productions, meetings, outings, and other events, assists with publicity and promotion, publishes articles, and performs other tasks.


Most of the episode titles from the television series Desperate Housewives reference his work in some way, through the use of either song titles or lyrics.[64][65][66][67]

Musical Theatre Development

In 1990, Sondheim took the Cameron Mackintosh chair in musical theatre at Oxford, and in this capacity ran workshops with promising writers of musicals, such as George Stiles, Anthony Drewe, Andrew Peggie, Paul James, Stephen Keeling and others. These writers jointly set up the Mercury Workshop in 1992, which eventually merged with the New Musicals Alliance to become MMD, a UK-based organisation developing new musical theatre, of which Sondheim continues to be patron.

The Sondheim Award

The Signature Theatre, Arlington, Virginia, established a new award, "The Sondheim Award", "as a tribute to America's most influential contemporary musical theatre composer." The first award was presented at a gala fund-raiser on April 27, 2009, with help from performers Bernadette Peters, Michael Cerveris, Will Gartshore and Eleasha Gamble. Sondheim himself was the first recipient of the award, which also includes a $5000 honorarium for the recipients' choice of a nonprofit organization.[68][69][70] The 2010 honoree is Angela Lansbury, with Peters and Catherine Zeta-Jones as honorary hosts for the Gala Benefit scheduled for April 12, 2010.[71]

The Stephen Sondheim Theatre

A Broadway theater at West 43rd Street in New York City, The Henry Miller's Theatre, was renamed The Stephen Sondheim Theatre in honor of his 80th birthday. The theater is operated by the Roundabout Theatre Company.[72][73]

Personal life

In The Times in 2009, Alan Franks wrote: "Sondheim came out as gay only when he was about 40, and did not live with a partner until he was 61. This was Peter Jones, a dramatist; the two lived together for several years, until 1999."[74] Sondheim discussed relationships in an interview with Frank Rich, who wrote, "His long solitary spell, he says, didn't faze him.... Well, in his case, does being gay play a part in it? 'Homosexuality, certainly it's a part of it. But the outsider feeling – somebody who people want to both kiss and kill – occurred quite early in my life.'"[4] Sondheim's social life in the NYC gay scene is also discussed in many books by Alan Helms.

See also


  1. ^ "Tony Awards Legacy Facts and Trivia", retrieved March 14, 2010
  2. ^ Secrest bookThe New York Times
  3. ^ a b c d Henry, William A, III (1987-12-07). "Master of the Musical; Stephen Sondheim Applies a Relentless". Time.,9171,966141,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Rich, Frank (2000-03-12). "Conversations With Sondheim". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  5. ^ Secrest, p 272, "Sondheim was in London when his mother died and did not return for her funeral."
  6. ^ King, Robert A., The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (1972), Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-11996-8, p. 310
  7. ^ Zadan, Craig, Sondheim & Co., New York: Harper & Row, 1974 & 1986 p. 4 ISBN 0-06-015649-X
  8. ^ Horowitz, Mark Eden, Sondheim on Music New York: Scarecrow Press, page 117 2003 ISBN 978-0-8108-4437-7 ISBN 0-8108-4437-0
  9. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (2003-08-28). "Sondheim, Film Aficionado; Choices for Telluride Festival Show Nonmusical Side". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  10. ^ Suskin, Steven, (1990) Opening Night on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Golden Era of the Musical Theatre, Schirmer Books, p.697
  11. ^ Zadan, p.38
  12. ^ interview on Sunday Arts, ABC (Australia) TV August 5, 2007 An Audience With Stephen Sondheim2007 ABC Australia TV interview downloadable ("Episode 26")
  13. ^ "A Precious Fancy". Time. 1973-03-19.,9171,906953,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Berkvist, Robert. "Stephen Sondheim Takes a Stab at Grand Guignol". New York Times, February 25, 1979
  16. ^ "'Sweeney Todd'"., retrieved March 22, 2010
  17. ^ Wheeler, Hugh; Sondheim, Stephen. "Sweeney Todd script, Introduction by Christopher Bond". Hal Leonard Corporation, 1991, ISBN 1-55783-066-5, p. 1
  18. ^ "'Sweeney Todd' listing" "Based on a Version of "Sweeney Todd" by Christopher Bond"., retrieved March 22, 2010
  19. ^ Brown, Larry. "'Sweeney Todd' Notes"., retrieved March 22, 2010
  20. ^ Gottfried, Martin (photos By Martha Swope), Sondheim, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993, pgs. 146-147 ISBN 978-0-8109-3844-1 ISBN 0-8109-3844-8
  21. ^ in Gottfried, Sondheim, p.153
  22. ^ Bahr, David (1999-10-12). "Everything's coming up Sondheim". The Advocate. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  23. ^ 2006 Sondheim feature. London
  24. ^ 2007 Interview: Stephen Sondheim for "Sweeney Todd".
  25. ^ Haun, Harry."Exclusive! Sondheim Explains Evolution from Bounce to Road Show"., August 12, 2008
  26. ^ Gardner, Elysa. "Sondheim sounds off about writing songs". USA oday, October 9, 2008
  27. ^
  28. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Liz Callaway Cast in World Premiere of iSondheim: a Musical Revue"., February 4, 2009
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew and Hetrick, Adam. "Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Cancels Sondheim Revue; Brel Will Play Instead"., February 26, 2009
  30. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Sondheim on Sondheim, a New Musical Reflection of a Life in Art, Begins on Broadway"., March 19, 2010
  31. ^ UCSB listing
  32. ^ UCLA listing
  33. ^ Rich schedule
  34. ^ Portland listing
  35. ^ Vanity Fair article about the talks, March 2008
  36. ^ Santa Barbara Independent, Interview with Sondheim about the talks, March 6, 2008
  37. ^ Oberlin listing
  38. ^ Heller, Fran. "Sondheim scores a hit at Oberlin College". Cleveland Jewish News, October 10, 2008
  39. ^ Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration
  40. ^ Sondheim Guide listing for Kennedy Center Celebration, 2002
  41. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Sondheim and Rich Will Discuss A Life in the Theater in January 2009"., November 11, 2008
  42. ^ "An Evening with Stephen Sondheim listing". Modlin Center for the Arts, accessed November 16, 2008
  43. ^ "An Evening with Stephen Sondheim and Frank Rich listing., accessed November 16, 2008
  44. ^ "Stephen Sondheim with Frank Rich listing",, accessed November 16, 2008
  45. ^ [1]
  46. ^ Maupin, Elizabeth. "Sondheim talks. And talks. And talks.", February 5, 2009
  47. ^ "'The Frogs', 1974 Yale University Production", retrieved April 28, 2010
  48. ^ Gans, Andrew."London's Jermyn Street Theatre to Offer Secret Sondheim with Cutko, Armstrong and McArthur", May 27, 2010
  49. ^ "'The Madwoman Of Central Park West' cast album list", retrieved May 14, 2010
  50. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Benanti, Gleason, Pierce, Stritch, Walton, Zien Join Philharmonic Sondheim Celebration"., January 8, 2010
  51. ^ Ross, Blake. "About Last Night: The Stars on Sondheim". Playbill, March 16, 2010
  52. ^ Hetrick, Adam."'Great Performances' to Broadcast Sondheim: The Birthday Concert in November". Playbill, July 21, 2010
  53. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Everybody Rise! Roundabout's Sondheim 80 Celebrates a Master's Milestone"., March 22, 2010
  54. ^ Ross, Blake."About Last Night: Inside Sondheim’s Birthday"., retrieved March 23, 2010
  55. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Lansbury, Zeta-Jones, Lane, Cariou, Gleason, Zien Sing Sondheim at City Center April 26"., April 26, 2010
  56. ^ Gardner, Elysa."Broadway stars salute Stephen Sondheim"USA Today, April 27, 2010
  57. ^ BBC Proms Programme, accessed August 1, 2010
  58. ^ Staff."Judi Dench Sings 'Send in the Clowns' for Sondheim's 80th", July 31, 2010
  59. ^ "Television and Radio listings, retrieved June 10, 2010
  60. ^ Young Playwrights site
  61. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Near Cornfields Worthy of Hammerstein, a Theatre Named for Sondheim Rises in Midwest"., May 31, 2007
  62. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Original Cast Members Fete Sondheim at New Midwest Arts Center Dec. 7-9"., December 4, 2007
  63. ^ Sondheim Review magazine
  64. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Tomlin to Join Fifth Season of 'Desperate Housewives'"., September 12, 2008
  65. ^ Episode list, "Desperate Housewives" IMDB
  66. ^ Widdicombe, Ben. Gossip, Daily News (New York), March 23, 2005, p. 22; "Desperate Housewives" writer Marc Cherry, who congratulated Sondheim in a filmed statement, admitted the composer was such an inspiration that each episode of his blockbuster show is named after a Sondheim song."
  67. ^ Chang, Justin. Variety, "Sondheim, Streisand infuse Wisteria Lane", December 20–26, 2004, p. 8; "Broadway-literate fans may have noticed the skein's first three post-pilot episodes... are all named after classic Stephen Sondheim showtunes...."
  68. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Signature Creates Sondheim Award, to Be Presented at April 2009 Gala"., October 6, 2008
  69. ^ Horwitz, Jane. "Backstage" column Washington Post, October 8, 2008
  70. ^ Jones, Kenneth. Peters and Cerveris Celebrate Sondheim at DC Sondheim Award Gala April 27"., April 27, 2009
  71. ^ Jones, Kenneth. Lansbury Will Accept Signature's Sondheim Award April 12, 2010, in DC"., December 11, 2009
  72. ^ "A Broadway theater is renamed for Stephen Sondheim"., March 22, 2010
  73. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Light the Lights! Stephen Sondheim Gets Broadway Theatre in His Name"., March 22, 2010
  74. ^ Franks, Alan. "Stephen Sondheim: 'My ideal collaborator is me'". Times Online, April 25, 2009


  • Gottfried, Martin. Sondheim (1993), New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., ISBN 0-8109-3844-8
  • Secrest, Meryle. Stephen Sondheim: A Life (1998), New York: Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 0-679-44817-9
  • Zadan, Craig. Sondheim & Co (1986, 2nd ed.), New York: Harper & Row, ISBN 0-06-015649-X

Further reading

  • Guernsey, Otis L. (Editor). Broadway Song and Story: Playwrights/Lyricists/Composers Discuss Their Hits (1986), Dodd Mead, ISBN 0-396-08753-1

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Carol Hall
for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics
for Sweeney Todd
Succeeded by
Tim Rice
for Evita
Preceded by
Carol Hall
for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music
for Sweeney Todd
Succeeded by
Andrew Lloyd Webber
for Evita
Preceded by
Harold Prince
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Succeeded by
Jerry Herman

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Stephen Sondheim. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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