Stephen Sondheim receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama at the White House in November, 2015.
Stephen Sondheim is synonymous with Broadway in New York City, and for over fifty years wrote and composed many works for musical theatre. He has received an Academy Award, eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy Awards, and Pulitzer Price, a Laurence Olivier Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s best known as both composer and lyricist for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, “Company”, “Follies”, “A Little Night Music”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Sunday in the Park with George”, and many others. He also was the lyricist for “West Side Story” and “Gypsy”. He was mentored by Oscar Hammerstein, who became a father figure to him after his parents divorced. Young Stephen wrote a comic musical in elementary school, and had Hammerstein critique it without revealing he had written it. During that critique, with thorough explanations as to why it wasn’t a good musical, Sondheim said, “in that afternoon I learned more about songwriting and the musical theatre than most people learn in a lifetime.”
The Henry Miller Theater on West 43rd Street renamed Stephen Sondheim Theatre on September 15, 2010. Broadway stars Nathan Lane and Patti LuPone, among others, were there. “I’m deeply embarrassed … thrilled, but embarrassed,” Sondheim said. He went on to say, “I’ve always hated my last name. It just doesn’t sing.” Nathan Lane said, “We love our corporate sponsors, but there’s something sacred about naming a theatre, and there’s something about this that is right.”
A little-known fact about Stephen Sondheim: he loves Bach, whose birthday we celebrated on the air throughout the day yesterday, and his favourite time span in classical music is from Brahms to Stravinsky. Normally I like to provide a YouTube link to music, but I came across this charming interview excerpt from The New Yorker Festival in 2014 with staff writer Adam Gopnik.
Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born March 22, 1930 in New York City, US,and still resides there.