Stephen Sondheim

A protégé of Oscar Hammerstein II in his boyhood, Stephen Sondheim first experienced music in the theater when the butler in the musical, Very Warm for May, dusted the piano on stage and tinkled the keys. Over the next sixty years, Stephen Sondheim would prove to be a dominant creative force on Broadway, with a musical education garnered at the hands of composer Milton Babbitt. From a modest debut with a single song in the 1956 stage play, Girls of Summer, Sondheim was quickly propelled to celebrity by writing the lyrics for two of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, West Side Story in 1957 and Gypsy in 1959. Since then, he has provided both the words and music for some fifteen other Broadway shows, from the 1962 farce, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, to, most recently, another musical drawn from ancient sources, The Frogs, first produced in 2004. Along the way, Sondheim’s musicals have served as milestones in the evolution of Broadway over the decades, from Company and Follies (which ran concurrently in their original runs in 1971) to Sweeney Todd (1979), possibly the first and only Broadway musical thriller, and Into the Woods (1987), which cast new light on the wonder tales of yore. Stephen Sondheim has been nominated for twenty-six Tony Awards® as lyricist and composer and has won fourteen times, including a lifetime achievement Tony Award® in 2008. He won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. Sondheim has also been active off-Broadway and in film. He provided the theme for Warren Beatty’s film, Reds, and also wrote songs for Beatty’s film adaptation of Dick Tracy. Sondheim’s musical Saturday Night opened in 1998 in London and made it to off-Broadway in 2000. In 1993, Sondheim helped write the book for the off-Broadway musical revue, Putting It Together, which included some original material as well as songs drawn from the first four decades of Sondheim on Broadway. Among Sondheim’s earliest efforts for the musical stage were Phinney’s Rainbow (1948) and All That Glitters (1949).