A Conversation with STEPHEN SONDHEIM A Life in the Theater
Engrossing evening with a genius
Just prior to his 80th Birthday, composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim offered a personal and entertaining view of his life in the theatre during a live, conversation with moderator Gary Griffin, Associate Artistic Director at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Mr. Sondheim gave his insights to the differences between film and theater stating that most films of Broadway musicals were simply the musical on film. He believes that Burton’s film of Sweeney Todd is a fresh, original work. Sondheim shared his own memories of his early days with Oscar Hammerstein II who taught him the art of theatre with emphasis on lyric writing. I heard many new stories particularly about how Sondheim, at age 17 was involved with Rodgers & Hammerstein’s production of Allegro in 1947. The staging concept use in Allegro was later used in South Pacific revolutionizing theatre.
We hear insights into the creative process on works such as West Side Story, Gypsy, Sweeney Todd. Filled with telling stories about Ethel Merman, Elaine Stritch and Yvonne DeCarlo, Sondheim gave us funny and telling glimpses into the world of musical theatre.
Sondheim told us of his new, two volume book containing all his lyrics with essays about the craft of lyric writing titles “Finishing The Hat” and “Look, I Made The Hat.”
The packed Harris Theatre was a love fest for the legendary composer/lyricist. Sondheim was clearly having a good time telling his stories and, at nearly age 80, he seemed as sharp as ever as he quickly answered Gary Griffin’s questions even correcting him on a few facts. There were hints of more musical theatre to come as Sondheim stated he was “tinkering with a few things” – stay tuned he’s not finished yet.