Stephen (Joshua) Sondheim



  • (1930 - ) US composer and lyricist, noted for hisinnovative and sophisticated musicals. Sondheim was born to wealthy butdysfunctional parents in New York City. As a young man he received encouragementfrom the lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (see Rodgers and Hammerstein)and studied with the composer Milton Babbitt. His first music to be performedin the theater was written for the play Girls of Summer (1956).Sondheim subsequently supplied the clever lyrics for Leonard Bernstein'sWest Side Story (1958) and for Gypsy (1959). In 1962 he wroteboth the lyrics and music for A Funny Thing Happened on the Wayto the Forum, a hit show based on the farces of the Roman authorPlautus. After the failure of Anyone Can Whistle (1964),a series of highly successful and often quite experimental musicalsfollowed; Company (1970), Follies (1971), A LittleNight Music (1973), which was written entirely in three-four time,and the gruesome Sweeney Todd (1979), all won New York Drama critics'circle awards. In 1985 Sondheim won a Pulitzer Prize for Sunday in thePark with George, inspired by the works of the French pointillistpainter Georges Seurat. Later works include Into the Woods(1987), a witty reworking of several familiar fairy-tales, the macabreAssassins (1991), Passion (1994), and Bounce(2003). The revue Side by Side by Sondheim, produced in Londonin 1976, featured a selection of his songs, as did Marry Me a Little(1981) and You're Gonna Love Tomorrow (1983). In 1990 Sondheimwas appointed visiting professor of drama at Oxford University.