Stephen Sondheim isn’t just any musical writer and composer. In addition to his Emmys and Tonys (the most for any composer) he’s got a Lifetime Tony award as well as a Pulitzer Prize. In honor of his 81st birthday, I’m going to make some recommendations on some of my favorite examples of his work. West Side Story is probably one of his better known and Gypsy probably has one of the best known songs, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
Into The Woods is one of my favorite Sondheim musicals. Though it’s based on fairy tales, there is no happy ending. It’s Sondheim doing what Sondheim does best.
The gleefully gothic and gory Sweeney Todd is amongst Sondheim’s more popular musicals. The Tim Burton film is a wonderful adaptation, particularly the “By the Sea” sequence.
Company is less plot-driven than most of Sondheim’s work. This pared down production allows more focus on relationships romantic and platonic between the characters. “Ladies Who Lunch,” is one of the most insightful, bitter songs I’ve heard.
A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum is a Sondheim oddity in that it has an unambiguously happy ending. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable classic (and classical!) farce.
Sunday In The Park With George can be difficult, but I find a new way to look at its message every time I see it: work-life balance, what traits are passed to us through our ancestors, what people look like when you see a snapshot of their lives.
If you’re really not into musicals (as my husband insists is the case with him — until we see a musical, and then he insists that’s the only one he likes) here are a couple of other ways to get your Sondheim on.
Dick Tracy netted Sondheim an Academy Award for the Breathless Mahoney song “Sooner or Later.”
Camp is a cute little independent film about kids at a performing arts summer camp. Keep a lookout for the cameo from Sondheim.