At our New Year’s Day Party, the Cape Symphony will celebrate the work of the late Stephen Sondheim.
The New York Times called Sondheim a “Titan of the American Musical.” His recent death at age 91 was mourned worldwide by fans and stars of his many productions.
In tribute, Broadway performers including Sara Bareilles, Josh Groban, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and many more gathered in Times Square on November 28 to perform “Sunday” from Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Lin-Manuel Miranda read an excerpt from Sondheim’s book Look, I Made a Hat, and then hundreds of voices were lifted in song. Watch the video.
Stephen Sondheim first wrote lyrics for two of the greatest musicals of all time – West Side Story and Gypsy, before composing his own acclaimed musicals, including Company, Follies, Sweeny Todd, and Into the Woods.
From a young age, Sondheim was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II, of Rogers & Hammerstein fame. In fact, it was Hammerstein who advised him to take the jobs writing lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, even though he wanted to compose too. Writing lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s music in the former, and for Ethel Merman to perform in the latter, certainly provided the valuable experience Hammerstein said he would gain.
His own first Broadway musical was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which won six Tonys including Best Musical. Pretty good for the first time! Not every effort would be a huge success, but collaborations with Hal Prince and James Lapine led to triumphs including Company, A Little Night Music, and Sunday in the Park with George.
As Hammerstein had done for him, Sondheim mentored two of contemporary Broadway’s greatest composers and lyricists – Jonathan Larson of Rent and Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights and Hamilton. He also collaborated with some of the best performers Broadway has ever seen, included Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, and Mandy Patinkin.
The much-awarded Sondheim held a Pulitzer, an Oscar, multiple Tony and Grammy Awards, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was a Kennedy Center honoree.