skip navigation
Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Stephen Sondheim - NOT AVAILABLE

Find what your looking for faster use the search field below to shop for titles.

SEARCH TCM.COM/SHOP


OR ... Click here to VOTE > for this person to be released on Home Video



Also Known As: Stephen Joshua Sondheim Died:
Born: March 22, 1930 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: composer, lyricist, screenwriter, actor, crossword puzzle writer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Stephen Sondheim is arguably the most important theatrical composer-lyricist in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Building on the framework created by such early musical theater figures as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, he has been responsible for redefining stage musicals in the last three decades. Subjects that were not considered viable (i.e., the opening of Japan to the West, a Victorian murder-revenge story) have in Sondheim's hands become groundbreaking shows that have moved the American musical forward. While Broadway no longer reflects American popular music (in the way that Tin Pan Alley songs of the early half of this century did), Sondheim's shows occupy a special place. He has transcended cult status to challenge audiences' expectations and as Broadway has moved toward spectacle (notably the shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber), his shows have become more intimate.

Stephen Sondheim is arguably the most important theatrical composer-lyricist in the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Building on the framework created by such early musical theater figures as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, he has been responsible for redefining stage musicals in the last three decades. Subjects that were not considered viable (i.e., the opening of Japan to the West, a Victorian murder-revenge story) have in Sondheim's hands become groundbreaking shows that have moved the American musical forward. While Broadway no longer reflects American popular music (in the way that Tin Pan Alley songs of the early half of this century did), Sondheim's shows occupy a special place. He has transcended cult status to challenge audiences' expectations and as Broadway has moved toward spectacle (notably the shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber), his shows have become more intimate.

Milestones close milestones

1940:
At age ten, moved with mother to Pennsylvania after parents' separation; neighbor Oscar Hammerstein II served as mentor
:
Wrote first amateur musical, "By George" while still in boarding school
1953:
Wrote for the CBS TV series, "Topper"
1954:
Wrote first musical score, "Saturday Night"; show was optioned for production, but the producer died before funding had been raised; project was shelved until a 1997 production at London's Bridewell Theatre; received a professional recording in 1998
1956:
First professional stage work, composed incidental music for "Girls of Summer"
1957:
Wrote lyrics to Broadway show, "West Side Story"; adapted into a film in 1961
1959:
Only original teleplay produced, "In an Early Winter"
1960:
Contributed to the CBS special "The Fabulous 50s"
1962:
Wrote lyrics and music for "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"; adapted into a film in 1966
1966:
Composed and wrote lyrics for first TV score, "Evening Primrose"
1970:
First collaboration with Harold Prince as director, "Company"; recording of the cast album was the subject of D. A. Pennebaker's documentary
1972:
Wrote the score for the cult musical "Follies"
1973:
With Anthony Perkins, co-wrote first original screenplay, "The Last of Sheila"; directed by Herbert Ross
1974:
TV acting debut in a PBS' production of "June Moon"
1974:
Composed first original film score, "Stavisky"
1976:
First stage revue based on his work, "Side by Side by Sondheim"
1976:
Wrote song "I Never Do Anything Twice/The Madam's Song" for the Herbert Ross-directed film "The Seven Per Cent Solution"
1977:
Wrote new songs for the Harold Prince directed film adaption of the Tony-winning musical, "A Little Night Music"
1979:
Wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical, "Sweeney Todd"; final collaboration with book writer Hugh Wheeler
1981:
Last collaboration to date with Prince, "Merrily We Roll Along"
1981:
Contributed to the score of Warren Beatty's "Reds"
1981:
Stage revue, "Marry Me a Little"; included songs cut from various productions; show assembled by Craig Lucas
1982:
First TV adaption of one of his musicals, "Sweeney Todd"; aired on The Entertainment Channel; later rebroadcast on PBS
1984:
First collaboration with James Lapine, "Sunday in the Park With George"; received Pulitzer Prize in Drama
1985:
An all-star concert version of "Follies" was performed at Lincoln Center; filmed for broadcast on PBS
1986:
"Sunday in the Park With George" broadcast on PBS with the original cast
1987:
A revised version of "Follies" opened in London's West End with Diana Rigg, Julia McKenzie and Daniel Massey
1987:
Second collaboration with Lapine, "Into the Woods"
1990:
Provided the song score for Warren Beatty's feature "Dick Tracy"; won Oscar for song "Sooner or Later"
1990:
The City Opera production of "A Little Night Music" aired on PBS' "Live From Lincoln Center"
1990:
Appointed first visiting professor of drama and musical theater at Oxford University
1990:
The controversial musical "Assassins" opened; main characters were all successful or would-be presidental assassins
1992:
Second stage revue of Sondheim work, "Putting It Together"; show marked the return to the stage of Julie Andrews
1992:
Was subject of tribute, "Sondheim: A Celebration at Carnegie Hall"; filmed for TV and aired in 1993 on PBS
1994:
Third collaboration with James Lapine, "Passion"; based on Ettore Scola's 1981 film "Passione d'amore"
1995:
Made debut as playwright, co-authoring "Getting Away With Murder" with George Furth
1996:
Wrote several songs for Mike Nichols' feature "The Bird Cage"; most songs not used in the final cut
1998:
Yet another revised version of "Follies" staged at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey
1999:
Revised version of Off-Broadway revue "Putting It Together" starring Carol Burnett opened in L.A.; production re-staged (with some cast changes) on Broadway
1999:
Workshop version of "Wise Guys" staged; directed by Sam Mendes; never transfer to Broadway
2000:
Off-Broadway premiere of "Saturday Night" at the Second Stage Theatre
2001:
First Broadway revival of "Follies" produced under auspices of Roundabout Theater
2001:
The Kennedy Center devoted entire season to works
2002:
Broadway revival of "Into the Woods"
2004:
Tony award winning Broadway revival of Sondheim's "Assassins"
2008:
Broadway revival of "Sunday in the Park with George"
2010:
Earned two Grammy nominations for Best Musical Show Album as the lyricist for "A Little Night Music" and "Sondheim On Sondheim"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

George School: Bucks County , Pennsylvania -
Williams College: Williamstown , Massachusetts - 1950

Notes

In a 1998 biogrpahy by Meryle Secrest, Sondheim openly discussed his homosexuality.

Sondheim received a 1996 National Medal of Freedom from the National Endowment for the Arts; he had declined the same honor in 1992 citing the climate of censorship and repression surrounding the NEA.

"I love to write in dark colors about gut feelings." --Stephen Sondheim in The New York Times Magazine, April 1, 1990.

"I like neurotic people. I like troubled people. Not that I don't like squared-away people, but I prefer neurotic people. What 'neurotic people' means to me is people with conflicts. And that's like saying I like to write about character. I don't like to write about oversimplified people unless it's for something like farce, like 'Forum'. Songs can't develop uncomplicated characters or unconflicted people. You can't just tell the sunny side and have a story with any richness to it. Good drama is the study of human passions." --Stephen Sondheim in The New York Times Magazine, April 1, 1990.

There is a magazine, The Sondheim Review, devoted to the works of the composer-lyricist.

There is an Internet website devoted to Sondheim at www.sondheim.com.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Janet Long. High school sweetheart.
companion:
Mary Rodgers. Composer. Daughter of Richard Rodgers; dated in the 1950s.
companion:
Lee Remick. Actor. Dated in the 1960s; Sondheim reportedly proposed to her.
companion:
Peter Jones. Composer, director, actor. Became student of Sondheim's in 1991; no longer together.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Herbert Sondheim. Dress manufacturer. Jewish; separated from Sondheim's mother in 1940; obtained Mexican divorce in 1941; married second wife Alicia Babe in 1943; obtained New York state divorce from Sondheim's mother in 1946; died of cancer in 1966 at age 71.
mother:
Etta Janet Sondheim. Dress designer. Jewish; born on March 13, 1897; spearated from Sondheim's father in 1940; divorced in 1946; later married TV executive Ed Leshin in 1950 until his death c. 1960; died in 1992.
step-mother:
Alicia Babe. Cuban-born; raised Roman Catholic; married Herbert Sondheim in Connecticut in 1943; died in 1980 at age 76.
step-father:
Edward Leshin. Executive. Worked at CBS; married Sondheim's mother in 1950; died c. 1960.
half-brother:
Herbert Sondheim Jr. Mother, father's second wife Alicia Babe; born in 1943; died of kidney failure in 1993.
half-brother:
Walter Sondheim. Mother, Alicia Babe; born in 1946.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Sondheim & Company" Harper & Row
"Art Isn't Easy: The Achievement of Stephen Sondheim" Southern Illinois University Press
"Sondheim's Broadway Musicals" University of Michigan Press
"Sondheim"
"Sondheim" Alfred A. Knopf
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute