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Sondheim's Early Life and Career

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim joins Donald Macleod to talk about his early life and career, including his apprenticeship with Oscar Hammerstein.

As part of his 80th birthday celebrations, Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim looks back over his life and work, with Donald Macleod. The result is a fascinating retrospective of half a century of creativity, with the artist himself as tour guide. Along the way, he explodes a few myths about the inner workings of musical theatre.
In the first of the week's programmes, Sondheim talks about his childhood, his parents' divorce, his near-adoption by the Hammerstein family and his apprenticeship with Oscar Hammerstein, the lyricist of Oklahoma! Then there's the rollercoaster ride of his early career: his first, abortive Broadway show; two amazing breaks, when he was commissioned to write the lyrics for first West Side Story, then Gypsy; his unhappy collaboration with Richard Rogers; and his major creative breakthrough with Company, a musical with situations and characters but no conventional plot, and the first appearance of characteristic Sondheim subject-matter - the virtual impossibility of forming good relationships. As one British critic observed, "It is extraordinary that a musical, that most trivial of forms, should be able to plunge as Company does, with perfect congruity, into the profound depths of human perplexity and misery.".

1 hour

Last on

Mon 26 Jul 2010 12:00

Music Played

  • Stephen Sondheim

    Pretty Little Picture

    Performer: Stephen Sondheim (pno & vox)

    • PS Classics PS-9529.
    • 2.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    Pretty Little Picture

    Performer: Zero Mostel (Pseudolus) Performer: Brian Davies (Hero) Performer: Preshy Marker (Philia)

    • Angel ZDM 7 64770 2.
    • 6.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    What More Do I Need

    Performer: David Campbell (Gene) Performer: Lauren Ward (Helen) Performer: Clarke Thorell (Hank) Performer: Andrea Burns (Celeste) Performer: Rachel Ulanet (Mildred) Performer: Natascia A. Diaz (Florence) Performer: Christopher Fitzgerald (Bobby) Performer: Michael Benjamin Washington (Ted) Performer: Kirk McDonald (Artie) Performer: Greg Zola (Ray) Performer: Joey Sorge (Dino) Performer: Michael Pemberton (Clune) Performer: David A. White (Lieutenant)

    • Nonesuch 7559-79609-2.
    • 20.
  • Jule Styne

    Everything's Coming Up Roses (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)

    Performer: Ethel Merman (Rose)

    • Columbia CK 32607.
    • 12.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    Free

    Performer: Zero Mostel (Pseudolus) Performer: Brian Davies (Hero)

    • Angel ZDM 7 64770 2.
    • 4.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    There's Always a Woman

    Performer: Madeline Kahn (Cora Hoover Hooper) Performer: Bernadette Peters (Fay Apple) Performer: American Theatre Orchestra Performer: Paul Gemignani (cond)

    • Columbia CK 67224.
    • 25.
  • Richard Rodgers

    Do I Hear a Waltz (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)

    Performer: Elizabeth Allen (Leona Samish)

    • Sony SK 48206.
    • 12.
  • Mary Rodgers

    The Boy From … (lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)

    Performer: Millicent Martin Stuart: Pedlar (pno)

    • RCA 1851-2-RG.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    Company

    Performer: Dean Jones (Bobby) Performer: Company

    • Sony SK 65283.
    • 1.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    The Little Things You Do Together

    Performer: Elaine Stritch (Joanne) Performer: Company

    • Sony SK 65283.
    • 2.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    You Could Drive a Person Crazy

    Performer: Donna McKechnie (Kathy) Performer: Susan Browning (April) Performer: Pamela Myers (Marta)

    • Sony SK 65283.
    • 4.
  • Stephen Sondheim

    Getting Married Today

    Performer: Beth Howland (Amy) Performer: Steve Elmore (Paul) Performer: Teri Ralston (Jenny) Performer: Company

    • Sony SK 65283.
    • 8.

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