Stephen Sondheim is a music composer who has worked with musical theatre for over 50 years. He has won an Academy award and eight Tonys. One of his Tonys was a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He was born in 1930 and has been composing music since 1954. He was born and grew up in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side. He is a very influential man. Cameron Mackintosh, a British theatre producer described him as “possibly the greatest lyricist ever.
He wrote and composed music for Into the Woods, Company, and Sweeney Todd. He wrote the lyrics for West Side Story. After his parents’ divorce, he became friends with James Hammerstein and had a very close relationship with James’ father Oscar Hammerstein II. Hammerstein was a playwright and was like a second father to Sondheim and helped him with many of his Broadways shows.
Sondheim is a viewed as a visionary in theatre. He is a mentor for many including, Adam Guettel and Jonathan Larson. His work has been an inspiration for many playwrights and lyricists. Laura Benanti, who played Cinderella in Into the Woods and Louise inGypsy (both have music written by Sondheim) said “His music is the sole reason I wanted to be on Broadway. I wanted to sing music that transports us to the most important place one can travel, our hearts.” Many of the shows that he was written and composed music for, have been long lasting broadway sensations.
Young actors who have not even been in any of his works, look up to him and are so enchanted by his words. Chris Colfer fromGlee says, “Performing Sondheim is more than just singing a song; it’s exposing a soul… Every lyric and every note is so beautifully assembled, it instantly levels your mood to whatever emotion is being portrayed. It takes a true gift to make audiences feel music as much as they hear it, and a performer couldn’t ask for a better tool.” Most of the audience feels like they are part of the music and are left singing most of his songs for weeks. The songs he writes fit the characters who sing the song so well.
He has his own theatre named after him and he is starting to write for movies. He wrote his own book that is an annotation of all his lyrics called Finishing the Hat, then he made a follow up book called Look, I Made a Hat.