Musicals Thread (Sondheim)

Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to talk about all things related to the wonderful world of musical theatre. Each week (or so) I will post a thread with a topic/question for everyone to respond to. This is also a great place to mention any new musicals you’ve discovered and/or general recommendations for other musical fans. Heard/seen any good shows lately? Have any theatre news to share? Tell us about it!

This week we have another wonderful post written by Bfth! As always, if you’re interested in writing anything for the thread, let me know! The subject for this week is the work of Stephen Sondheim!

The name is synonymous with musical theater. To musical theater heads/geeks he is a God.  (See the independent film “Camp” for confirmation of this; he has a cameo and plays it perfectly.) Mentored by Oscar Hammerstein, who became a surrogate father to him (Sondheim’s childhood with distant/disappearing father and unloving mother [yes she DID actually say that her greatest regret was giving birth to him] could be a dramatic musical unto itself), he had a unique entree into the world of Broadway musicals.

His first Broadway show was as a lyricist to composer Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story. (How’s that as an introduction?), and this was followed by Gypsy. But Sondheim didn’t want to be JUST a lyricist. (Just? As if!) His next outing was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which initially ran for nearly 1,000 performances. (And of course, has been revived numerous times.)

His successful shows (which weren’t always successful at the start) include: Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, (my personal favorite), Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George, Into The Woods, and Passion. However, his “flops” are almost as well known and many have a cult following. You have to be brave (or crazy?) to write a musical about a corrupt mayor(ess)  and a doctor who may not be a doctor, but a crazy man (Anyone Can Whistle) or a play which starts at the end until it reaches the beginning (Merrily We Roll Along) or about murders, successful and not (Assassins).

[Grumproro has shamelessly inserted her favorite song from Assassins:

However, one of my favorite Sondheim creations is NOT a musical but a slightly obscure movie from 1973 which he co-wrote with Anthony Perkins: The Last of Sheila, a mystery/thriller with an all star (at least 1970s wise) cast that includes: Raquel Welch, James Mason and Dyan Cannon.  If you have a chance, I’d highly recommend it; remembering, of course, that it was a film of the 1970s. (And if you HAVE seen it, please leave your impressions in the comments section!)

Are you a Sondheim fan or is his somewhat atonal style of music not your cup of tea? Do you have a favorite Sondheim musical or song? (One of my favorites is “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)” which he wrote for the movie, Dick Tracy). It’s your turn to talk Sondheim below!