Monday, 22 March 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. Sondheim!

Stephen Sondheim turns 80 today. The Broadway composer and lyricist has been a huge influence on the way I see musical theatre: that it doesn't need to be camp and obtuse, but has the capacity to be cerebral, challenging and artistic. This post is dedicated to the awesomeness that is his genius.

Did you know he wrote all the lyrics to West Side Story? The New York cast is coming to KL soon, by the way. If you are going to watch it, please don't tell me, because I'll probably hate you forever.

Mr. Sondheim isn't famous for simple, hummable tunes nor simple, family friendly musicals. His oeuvre covers many challenging, disparate, and at times unpleasant themes. "A Little Night Music" is about unfaithful aristocrats in turn of the century Sweden.

In "Sunday in the Park with George", he studies through music the struggles of a socially inept artist, George Seurat, trying to connect with the world and realise his creative vision as he paints his masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Le Grande Jatte.

He's also done killer barbers and cannibalistic pie bakers. Yup, he wrote the words and music to Sweeney Todd, which Tim Burton turned into an awesome movie.

In Company, the lead character is a commitment-phobic 30-something, Bobby.

He also wrote the music and lyrics for Dick Tracey's soundtrack.  Here, Ol' Madge sings "Sooner or Later" with flair at the 1991 Oscars.

This is just a small snippet of his work (19 musicals!), but he is, without dispute, one of the greatest composers and lyricists of musical theatre history.


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