Stephen Sondheim wrote music and/or lyrics for West Side Story, Company, A Little Night Music and nearly a dozen other hit Broadway musicals of the late 20th century. His break came in the early 1940's when he and his divorced mother moved from New York City to rural Doylestown, Pa. They lived near the summer residence of Oscar Hammerstein II, who became the boy's mentor and taught him the craft of composing musical plays. Sondheim wrote lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music for West Side Story (1957), followed by Gypsy with Jule Styne. He went on to compose music and lyrics for shows of his own, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and Into the Woods (1987).
Sondheim majored in music at Williams College in Massachusetts and studied composition at Princeton University.A Little Night Music (1973) included his first commercial hit song, "Send in the Clowns".Side by Side by Sondheim (1976), a hit in London, New York and regional theaters, is a narrated revue of songs with Sondheim's lyrics and other composers' music. His Broadway work repeatedly has won Tony, Drama Desk, and New York Drama Critic Circle awards for best musical, best music and best lyrics. He composed scores or songs for the films Stavisky (1974), Reds (1981) and Dick Tracy (1990). The latter won an Academy Award for best song, "Sooner or Later." His most recent original musical play was Road Show, which played at the Public Theatre in New York in 2008. His collection of annotated lyrics, Finishing The Hat (Volume !) was published in 2010. The second volume, Look! I Made a Hat was published in 2011.
About the interviewer:
RICHARD WOLINSKY hosts Bookwaves heard every Thursday at 3:00 pm on KPFA-FM in Berkeley