Art Isn't Easy : The Theater of Stephen Sondheim
Gordon explicates the works of Sondheim to repudiate the common perception of musical theater as mere escapist entertainment, showing how Sondheim tackles real, complex subjects, without fear of introducing pain, trauma, and difficult ideas onto the Broadway stage.
(Martin Gottfried, Martha Swope (Photographer)
First published in 1993, Sondheim reveals an extraordinary portrait of the most celebrated Broadway composer of our time-the man who gave us A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and other acclaimed musicals.
Revised and reissued to coincide with the April 2000 Broadway premiere of Sondheim's latest musical, Wise Guys, starring Nathan Lane, this richly illustrated biography now covers all of the composer's work since 1990, including Passion, Putting It All Together, and, of course, Wise Guys.
Drawing on lengthy conversations with Sondheim, including new interviews for this updated edition, critic Martin Gottfried takes readers through the composer's career production by production, analyzing the music and lyrics and revealing intimate details of how Sondheim creates his theater magic. A wealth of photographs bring Sondheim's shows to life.
Stephen Sondheim : A Life
America's foremost musical-theater composer also proves to be a fascinatingly complex and conflicted human being in this meticulous biography by the always-capable Meryle Secrest (Being Bernard Berenson, etc.). Stephen Sondheim himself was interviewed for the book, as were many of his closest friends, and the author makes perceptive use of this material. Born in 1930, Sondheim was a successful Broadway lyricist (West Side Story and Gypsy) before he was 30. But the scars from a miserable childhood remained: he was inclined to be distant, hypercritical of those less intelligent than he, and terrified of serious emotional commitment. Critics sometimes found those qualities in the series of groundbreaking musicals he created with director Hal Prince--Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, to name four--but they agreed that he brought new intellectual ambition and artistic adventurousness to the musical theater. Secrest does a fine job of delineating Sondheim's career in terms of what it tells us about the state of American theater, as when he shifted to a partnership with writer-director James Lapine and worked in the nonprofit sector for such musicals as Sunday in the Park with George and Assassins. She also does well in selecting revealing quotes to depict the composer's struggle to accept his homosexuality and a rage at his overbearing mother so deep that he didn't even attend her funeral. Sondheim the man and Sondheim the visionary artist get nearly equal time in an intriguing portrait.