R.I.P. STEPHEN SONDHEIM 3/22/1930 – 11/26/2021

Started by scenicdesign71, Nov 26, 2021, 02:13 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.






LMM: "No speeches today, just some words from Steve -- Book 2, page 430:  'When Wilson Mizner came out of a coma and saw a priest standing over him, he reportedly said, "Why should I talk to you? I've just been talking to your boss," then promptly died.'..."


A couple that I've run across:

AV Club


(Although nothing on gamesmagazine-online.com)


Finally catching up with last week's 3-part Fresh Air tribute on NPR:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three


"A Sondheim Surge: Interest in His Work Soars After His Death":


(Also: I hadn't heard yet, but this article mentions in passing that the official cause was cardiovascular disease).


I drew this in 2011, originally posted on the old board.  I just felt like posting it here too, and this seemed like the right spot.

You cannot view this attachment.


Perhaps oddly, given how fiercely I've admired the man's work for a good three quarters of my life, I've never really been ravenous for details about his personal life, or even especially curious about it.  I acquired the Secrest biography within a few months of its publication twenty-odd years ago, but have never sat down and read it cover-to-cover; indeed, if my spotty memory is any indication, there are likely substantial chunks of it that I've never even perused at all.

Still, I found these two articles strangely moving after happening upon them just now, in spite or because of the fact that they touch on his life only tangentially: the first, a handful of dry legal facts about the disposition of his estate; and the second, a profile of two of his friends, published eight years ago -- which mentions SJS only briefly.





This is well worth watching, indeed my favorite of these sort of memorial get-togethers to date.
Also, I don't think I'd previously been aware that Dr. West was such a fervent admirer.

Unrelated, but for further Sondhead erudition: click here and scroll to the bottom to read a half-dozen snappy mini-appreciations of some of SJS's greatest hits.  To wit:

  • "A Little Priest," handily re-surfacing the Brechtian political satire that's gone underacknowledged in recent decades;
  • "Being Alive," noting how Company inverts traditional musical-theatre structure with regard to the "I want" song;
  • "No One Is Alone," exploring Into The Woods's use of, and place in, the cultural-anthropological history of the folktale;
  • "Color and Light," a sharp, compact close reading expanding beyond the usual thuddingly-obvious "staccato = pointillism, see what he did there?";
  • "I Feel Pretty," praised (pace the self-critical lyricist Himself) for its character-appropriate "straightforward syntax and childlike vocabulary"; and
  • "Losing My Mind," perhaps the most persuasive excavation of this song I've read.


After appearing fourth-from-the-top (after Poitier, Dukakis and Hurt) of the In Memoriam segment at last night's Oscars ceremony, SJS will be "remembered in song" by a quartet of luminaries on next Sunday's Grammys:


And one hopes the Tony Awards producers will find some way to pull out all the stops this June.

(Sidebar: Tony Walton also made Oscar's memorial list last night, a little over halfway through).


James McMullan, Lincoln Center Theatre's longtime Principal Poster Artist, has created a tribute poster to Stephen Sondheim which is available for purchase in both 14"x22" and 18"x32" formats, the latter a signed and numbered limited edition.

The image, from the iconic 1960 photo by Hans Namuth (with vignettes from various production stills by the illustrious Martha Swope and others), is beautiful.

The quote distracts me; in an uncharitable mood, I'd say it veers toward breakroom-motivational-poster cheesiness when removed from its original context in SITPWG.  (I've never especially liked seeing that lyric on t-shirts and suchlike, either, nor as a selfie-ready neon lobby installation at the Hudson Theatre a few years ago.  SJS may be eminently quotable, but mining his work for needlepoint-sampler bromides misses its spirit by such a breathtaking margin as to make the intended homage read more like unwitting vandalism).

Further, the quote's layout on the limited-edition version (at least as shown above: rendered as a single run-on sentence, the three clauses broken awkwardly over two lines) is dismayingly bad, and I'm not a fan of its bold sans-serif font either.  (Another photo of several of the signed prints suggests that they've been properly repunctuated, just as in the unsigned (and slightly cropped) 14x22 format, albeit still squeezed clumsily into two lines: "Anything you do, let it come / from you. Then it will be new." -- which at least does Steve's memory the courtesy of not piling illiteracy on top of mawkishness and bad design).

Finally, the distributor's credit is far too large: if it's legible from even just a few feet away (as I'm willing to bet it is, judging by these photos), then the font size is at least twice what it ought to be.  On top of the artwork itself, even in a corner, is not the place to advertise ("I put the names of my contributors on the side of each machine").  Assuming it needs to exist at all -- I'm not 100% convinced it does -- it should be treated as "utility" text, like a copyright notice or a serial number, inconspicuous to the point of near-invisibility; if, for some inexplicable reason, one were ever to actually need or want this info, one should legitimately be obliged to get uncomfortably close and/or use a magnifying glass.

Having said all that, I might still buy it for the artwork itself -- which is, to repeat, beautiful.


Here comes another tribute poster, this one originally designed by graphic artist Bo Lundberg to grace the September-October 2022 "Sondheim Issue" of the Dramatist Guild's bimonthly journal The Dramatist, guest-edited by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

SJS, of course, spent 57 years on the Guild's Council, serving as its President for eight of those years (1973-81).  LMM is also on the 71-member Council.

The magazine ($10) and the 20"x30" poster ($5) can both be purchased online or at select bookstores in NYC, Provincetown, Los Angeles and London.

You cannot view this attachment.  You cannot view this attachment.

I'm guessing Mr. Lundberg was inspired by the famous monochrome glamour shot used on Merrily We Roll Along's 1981 OBCR album cover, with its dramatic lighting and ruminative downward gaze.  But he has tilted SJS's head up a bit, countering the downcast eyes and lengthening the neck (the collarless shirt helps too), and given him a longer, more flowing and altogether groovier hairstyle.  If the original photo had a sort of Old Hollywood vibe, Lundberg's remix skews more Nouveau Psychedelic.


From today's Times, Ben Brantley on the spell SJS continues to cast:

NYT:   Why We Can't Let Stephen Sondheim Go

(Ed.: ...And of course, after recently mentioning how I've been trying to remember to use my free "shares" as a subscriber (10 per month, for the NYT) on articles I post here -- I neglected to do so with this one.  Now corrected, with apologies if a previous click ate into anyone's monthly free-without-a-subscription quota.)


I don't love reviving this thread, but between the headline and my distinct sense that the phenomenon it describes is not purely coincidental, I do think this article belongs here.

NYT:  Sondheim Was a Critical Darling.  Since His Death, He's a Hitmaker, Too.

I wish I was fonder of these recent productions (the ones I've seen, anyway).  If I'm able to see Merrily on B'way at some point, or if I ever work up the stomach to see Kail's Sweeney yet again (perhaps with Tveit and Foster), it's not inconceivable that my opinions might yet soften.  But regardless, I'm glad the work is being kept alive and that new audiences are being introduced to it.  Even if I personally don't happen to love these current incarnations, by helping to enshrine SJS's oeuvre in the repertoire -- as box-office successes, for a change -- they'll indirectly lead to future productions that might blow my mind.