- NAME: Stephen Sondheim
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Writer
- BIRTH DATE: March 22, 1930 (Age: 83)
- Did You Know?: American lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim has written musicals based on sources as varied as fairy tales, a painting by Georges Seurat, ancient Roman comedy and an Ingmar Bergman film.
- EDUCATION: George School, Williams College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
- Full Name: Stephen Joshua Sondheim
- AKA: Stephen Sondheim
- ZODIAC SIGN: Aries
Best Known For
American lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim is known for the remarkable range of musicals he's worked on, from West Side Story to Sweeney Todd to Into the Woods.
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American lyricist and composer Stephen Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930, in New York City. After early practice at songwriting,
"The last collaborator is your audience, and so you've got to wait 'til the last collaborator comes in before you can complete the collaboration."
"The way you get into the character—the way you get in the song, both musically and lyrically—is to become the character. It's the only way."
"I love to write in dark colors about gut feelings."
he gained much of his knowledge of musical theater from working with master lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. Sondheim's contributions to West Side Story and Gypsy in the 1950s brought him recognition as a rising star of Broadway. His major works for the theater include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods.
Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930, in New York City. His parents, Herbert and Janet (née Fox) Sondheim, worked in New York's garment industry; his father was a dress manufacturer and his mother was a designer. They divorced in 1942 and Sondheim moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, with his mother. He began studying piano and organ at a young age, and he was already practicing songwriting as a student at the George School.
In Pennsylvania, Sondheim became friends with the son of Broadway lyricist and producer Oscar Hammerstein II, who gave the young Sondheim advice and tutelage in musical theater. In his teens, Sondheim worked as an assistant on several of Hammerstein's theater collaborations with composer Richard Rodgers.
Sondheim attended Williams College, where he majored in music. After graduating from the school in 1950, he studied further with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt and moved to New York City.
In the early 1950s, Stephen Sondheim moved to Los Angeles, California, and wrote scripts for the television series Topper and The Last Word. Returning to New York, he composed background music for the play The Girls of Summer in 1956.
An acquaintance with director Arthur Laurents brought Sondheim into contact with composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins, who were looking for a lyricist for a contemporary musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Writing the song lyrics for West Side Story, which opened in 1957, Sondheim became part of one of Broadway's most successful productions of all time.
Sondheim's next theater project was similarly high-profile: He teamed up with composer Jule Styne to write the lyrics for Gypsy, which opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as its star.
Sondheim wrote both lyrics and music for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a farce based on comedies by ancient playwright Plautus. It opened in 1962, ran for nearly 1,000 performances and won a Tony Award for best musical.
Sondheim won several more Tony Awards in the 1970s for his collaborations with producer/director Harold Prince, including the musicals Company (1970), a meditation on contemporary marriage and commitment; Follies (1971), an homage to the Ziegfeld Follies and early Broadway; A Little Night Music (1973), a period comedy-drama that included the hit song "Send in the Clowns"; and Sweeney Todd (1979), a gory melodrama set in Victorian London.
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