Stephen Sondheim born 22 March 1930
Stephen Sondheim is probably the greatest post-war writer of Broadway musicals.
Having been rescued from a lonely childhood and encouraged as a boy by his neighbourhood friend's father, Oscar Hammerstein II, and studied music at Williams College, his career took off when, aged 26, he was asked to write the lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story. The following year he was writing lyrics for Jule Styne's songs for Gypsy. His first attempt as a composer & lyricist was A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1962) and a hit.
His work is hard to categorise. He is gay but has rarely created a gay character; his range of subjects is diverse; he has mastered many different musical styles, each new project is a new challenge; he is rarely formulaic. Lyrically he is as intelligent, witty and ironic as his music is audacious, in the style of his gay predecessors Noel Coward, Lorenz Hart or Cole Porter. His shows however, generally reject traditional notions of love and romance and neither do they reflect the gay culture which has emerged and become mainstream during his career, although ironically, his work has contributed much to that culture and become part of the gay musical tapestry - songs such as: Somewhere, Losing My Mind, Being Alive, Send In The Clowns...
His greatest shows include: Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Into The Woods (1987), Sunday In The Park With George (1984), Assassins (1991), Passion (1994) & Getting Away With Murder (1996).
He has won seven Tonys, an Academy Award, eight Grammys and a Pulitzer Prize, multiple Drama Desk and other theatre awards. His shows are regularly revived and many of his songs are now standards covered by a diverse range of artists. In 2008 he was awarded a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.
2010 marks the 80th birthday of this Broadway and songwriting legend, and many events, benefits and tributes are planned to celebrate this landmark.
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