Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in my corner of west-central Florida on Saturday, November 27, 2021. It’s a chilly late fall day. The current temperature is 68˚F (20˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 7 MPH (11 KM/H) and humidity at 36%, the feels-like temperature is 67˚F (19˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 70˚F (21˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy and the low will be 45˚F (7˚C).
Yesterday, Stephen Sondheim, one of the great American composers and lyricists of all time, died at the age of 91. Sondheim had early success on Broadway as the lyricist for West Side Story (music by Leonard Bernstein) and Gypsy (music by Jule Stine). He eventually became a composer in his own right and wrote songs and musical numbers for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987).
Sondheim is a legend in the pantheon of American musical theater. He is known for his fondness for word-play and his fearlessness when it comes to exploring the darker side of the human experience. He was also innovative, unafraid to blend styles from different cultures – as he does in Pacific Overtures, in which he blends American and Japanese dramatic conventions and tones. He also never repeated himself and could base a musical on anything, it seemed. From Ingmar Bergman movies (A Little Night Music) to Presidential assassins (Assassins), if Sondheim and his collaborators could craft musicals about them, they would be Broadway-bound.
In a career that spanned 59 years, Sondheim earned nine Tony Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2008), an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, a Laurence Olivier Award, and a 2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His death yesterday is especially poignant, coming only a few days before the world premiere of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming movie remake of West Side Story, which was first adapted as a film co-directed by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise in 1961.
In honor of Stephen Sondheim, here are some of my favorite Sondheim numbers: