Audience enters into the brand new underground Henry Miller Theater, soon to-be-christened the STEPHEN SONDHEIM THEATER. It is under-attended, more modern than you're comfortable with, and requires you to travel deeper down than you think you ought to.
Stephen Sondheim (b 22 March 1930) is one of the 20th Century's most respected composers of musicals. He's won seven Tony Awards, an Academy Award, several Grammy Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize. He began on Broadway as a lyricist, and then began writing his own music. Critics of his work complain that the songs are too complex and unhummable, which he went on to lampshade in such works as Merrily We Roll Along and Sunday In The Park With George.
The Frogs (1941, revived in 2004) (play by Aristophanes)
Saturday Night (1954, though unproduced until 1997) (book by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein)
Into the Woods (1987) (book by James Lapine; directed by James Lapine)
Assassins (1990) (book by John Weidman; directed by Jerry Zaks)
Passion (1994) (book by James Lapine; directed by James Lapine)
Bounce (2003) (book by John Weidman; directed by Hal Prince)
In 2008 Bounce was re-worked, with some songs removed and others added, one character entirely cut, and the plot rewritten; the resulting piece is now called Road Show and it opened off-Broadway in November 2008, directed by John Doyle.
Works by Stephen Sondheim without their own pages, and his oeuvre in general, provide examples of:
Added Alliterative Appeal: He loves this. Any Sondheim musical will include lines like "I feel fizzy and funny and fine," "The realities remain remote," "The bong of the bell of the buoy in the bay," and the infamous "That's the puddle where the poodle did the piddle."
All Musicals Are Adaptations: He's perhaps the only man ever to adapt a painting into a full-length musical. He's only done three completely original shows: Anyone Can Whistle, Company, and Follies.
Follies was inspired by a picture of Gloria Swanson standing in the ruins of the Roxy Theater.
And Company was originally based on a series of one-act plays by George Furth that were combined into the musical.
Pastiche: Over half the songs in Follies are pastiches (not parodies) of the styles of older composers, lyricists and musical forms. The score of Assassins also consists mostly of pastiches of different American musical styles like patriotic marches and '80s pop.
Sanity Slippage Song: He's got several - "Epiphany" from Sweeney Todd, "Getting Married Today" from Company, "Live, Laugh, Love" from Follies, "Franklin Shepard Inc." from Merrily We Roll Along, and "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy.
And really, any song containing the word "Ballad" in Assassins.
Sondheim joined forces with Andrew Lloyd Webber for "Hey Mr Producer", a tribute concert to Cameron Mackintosh. They performed a duet riffing on their songs "Send In The Clowns" and "Music of the Night", all while playfully ribbing Mackintosh.
For the retrospective Sondheim on Sondheim, he wrote a new song: "God"
Shout-Out: In the opening of Pacific Overtures, the Reciter sings of far off lands where, among other things, women are being praised, which is arguably a Shout-Out to 'In Praise of Women' from Sondheim's previous musical A Little Night Music.
Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: More often inverted than played straight. Often he'll complete the rhyme, but in a way you'd never guess. Or he'll stuff in a bunch of internal rhymes where no other songwriter will dare.
That Reminds Me of a Song: Used dramatically in Follies, in which half the songs are numbers that the women used to sing in their days in the Ziegfeld Follies-esque show, but are used to point up the melancholy of the story.
Surprisingly, the villain in Evening Primrose (Ms. Munday) did not receive one, most likely because it was only written to fit within an hour of television broadcast time. Many fans think that if Evening Primrose were to be expanded for stage, Ms. Munday should deserve a song.
White-Dwarf Starlet: Half the cast of Follies, a show which does a little examining of this very phenomenon.