Today Stephen Sondheim turns 90 years old, a milestone birthday that theater lovers have been celebrating for weeks now. (e.g. Sondheim at 90, a package of six articles in the New York Times; an epic collection of birthday greetings in song from the stars on Playbill.) Today would have been the Broadway opening of the new gender-bending production of “Company,” with Patti LuPone and Katrina Lenk, which would have been a fine way to celebrate.
Sondheim made his Broadway debut at the age of 26 in 1956, which means more than six decades of shows and songs. I thought the best way to celebrate his birthday is to rewatch the videos of some terrific performances of his songs, several from his 80th birthday concerts. Below the videos are some favorite lyrics.
Stephen Sondheim’s Musicals
Girls of Summer (1956) Sondheim composed the title song in this straight play by N. Richard Nash.
Saturday Night (1954, produced 1997): Book by Julius and Philip Epstein
West Side Story (1957): Music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents, directed by Jerome Robbins. Sondheim is the lyricist.
Gypsy (1959): Music by Jule Styne, book by Arthur Laurents, directed by Jerome Robbins. Sondheim is the lyricist.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962): Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, directed by George Abbott
Anyone Can Whistle (1964): Book and direction by Arthur Laurents
Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965): Music by Richard Rodgers, book by Arthur Laurents. Sondheim is the lyricist.
Company (1970): Book by George Furth
Follies (1971): Book by James Goldman
A Little Night Music (1973): Book by Hugh Wheeler
The Frogs (1974): Book by Burt Shevelove (2004 version book by Nathan Lane)
Pacific Overtures (1976): Book by John Weidman
Sweeney Todd (1979): Book by Hugh Wheeler
Merrily We Roll Along (1981): Book by George Furth
Sunday in the Park with George (1984): Book and direction by James Lapine
Into the Woods (1987): Book and direction by James Lapine
Assassins (1990): Book by John Weidman
Passion (1994): Book and direction by James Lapine
Road Show (2008): Book by John Weidman (formerly titled Bounce, Wise Guys, and Gold!)
Work in progress with David Ives, tentatively titled Buñuel
The videos are in roughly chronological order by the date of the show in which the song debuted
from the movie version of A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to the Forum, the first Broadway musical for which Sondheim composed the music
Here’s Sondheim rehearsing “Getting Married Today” from Company with the original singer, Beth Howland
from A Little Night Music
from Sweeney Todd
from Into the Woods
1993 Kennedy Center Honors
My Twitter pals favorite Sondheim lyrics:
Company/What Would We Do Without You
“Should there be a marital squabble, available Bob’ll be there with the glue.”
— Rick Borutta (@GestaltOfRick) March 22, 2020
Somebody crowd me with love.
Somebody force me to care.
Somebody let me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive,
Song: Being Alive. The Musical: Company
— specialsmiley (@Ianto_back2_TW) March 22, 2020
And here’s to the girls who play wife—
Aren’t they too much?
Keeping house but clutching a copy of LIFE
Just to keep in touch
The ones who follow the rules
And meet themselves at the schools
Too busy to know that they’re fools
Aren’t they a gem?
Ladies Who Lunch//Company
— Kristin (@itskristind) March 22, 2020
“Life is often so unpleasant
You must know that, as a peasant,
Best to take the moment present
As a present, for the moment.”
– Any Moment, Into The Woods
Also the classic “shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd on top.”
— Helen Kennedy (@HelenKennedy) March 22, 2020
“That’s another story, never mind, anyways” part of the Witch’s rap from Into The Woods
— John Dillingham (@musicman0943) March 22, 2020
Larks never will, you know, when they’re captive. Teach me to be more adaptive.
Green Finch and Linnet Bird from Sweeney Todd
— theaterreviewsfrommyseat (@theaterreviews1) March 22, 2020
Loving you is not a choice.
It’s who I am
— John O’Hara (@johnoplaywright) March 22, 2020
“Loving You” from Passion:
Loving you is not a choice,
It’s who I am.
Loving you is not a choice
And not much reason to rejoice,
But it gives me purpose
Gives me voice to say to the world:
This is why I live
You are why I live.
I was there then
I am here now
— Lynn Angelson (@AngelsonLynn) March 22, 2020
“I’m Still Here” from Company:
Good times and bum times
I’ve seen ’em all and, my dear
I’m still here
Flush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer
But I’m here
I’ve run the gamut, A to Z
Three cheers and dammit, c’est la vie
I got through all of last year
And I’m here
Lord knows, at least I’ve been there
And I’m here
Look who’s here
I’m still here