Stephen Sondheim

Sondheim, Stephen Joshua

Stephen Joshua Sondheim (sônd´hīm), 1930–, American composer and lyricist, b. New York City. As a young man, he studied lyric writing with Oscar Hammerstein 2d, and early in his career he wrote lyrics for Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story (1957) and collaborated with Jule Styne in the writing of Gypsy (1959). Later he composed his own music and lyrics for such musicals as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), and Merrily We Roll Along (1981). His later works include Sunday in the Park with George (1984; Pulitzer Prize), Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1991), Passion (1994), and Road Show (2008). Widely regarded as the most important figure in the American musical theater of the late 20th cent., Sondheim has expanded the boundaries of lyric writing and subject matter, introduced complex characters and situations, brought a mordant wit and sophisticated lyricism to his words and music, and in the process reinvented the Broadway musical.

See his collected lyrics (with his commentary), Vol. I (1954–1981), Finishing the Hat (2010) and Vol. II (1981–2011), Look, I Made a Hat (2011); biographies by G. Martin (1993) and M. Secrest (1998); studies by J. Gordon (1990, 1997); E. Mordden, On Sondheim: An Opinionated Guide (2015).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Stephen Sondheim: Selected full-text books and articles

Art Isn't Easy: The Achievement of Stephen Sondheim By Joanne Lesley Gordon Southern Illinois University Press, 1990
Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim By Geoffrey Block Oxford University Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. Thirteen "Happily Ever After West Side Story with Sondheim"
How Rose Got Her Turn By Secrest, Meryl American Theatre, Vol. 15, No. 5, May-June 1998
Sondheim and Furth's Triple Play By Coen, Stephanie American Theatre, Vol. 12, No. 10, December 1995
Show Tunes: The Songs, Shows, and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers By Steven Suskin Oxford University Press, 2000 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Stephen Sondheim begins on p. 273
Stage It with Music: An Encyclopedic Guide to the American Musical Theatre By Thomas S. Hischak Greenwood Press, 1993
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Stephen Sondheim begins on p. 236
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