Stephen Sondheim: His life in musicals

Asia's Tech News Daily

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, pictured here in 2005, was one of the most inimitable musical theater artists of his generation. He died Nov. 26 at his home age age 91. 
Here's a look back at some of the groundbreaking musicals of which he was part that redefined the American art form.

One of Sondheim’s first Broadway efforts was to write the lyrics for 1959’s “West Side Story.” The show was made into a film in 1961 starring Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood as the star-crossed lovers.

Rita Moreno brought the role of Anita to life in the “West Side Story” film. Chita Rivera originated the character onstage.

Ethel Merman starred in Sondheim's other 1959 musical, “Gypsy,” with Karen Moore, left, and Jacqueline Mayro.

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” starring John Carradine, Jack Gilford, David Burns and Zero Mostel, opened in 1962.

“Anyone Can Whistle” opened in 1964. Lee Remick, left, and Angela Lansbury starred in the Broadway production that closed after only nine performances, but later become something of a cult hit following the release of the cast recording.

“Do I Hear A Waltz?” opened on March 18, 1965 at Broadway’s 46th Street Theater. From left are composer Richard Rodgers, performers Elizabeth Allen Sergio Franchi and Carol Bruce and librettist Arthur Laurents.

Sondheim’s musicals are fan and cast favorites, so revivals are frequent. Here, Martha Plimpton, Stephen Colbert and Neil Patrick Harris rehearse New York Philharmonic’s 2011 production of “Company,” first performed in 1970.

Just over a dozen blocks away, Jenifer Foote, Danny Burstein and Kiira Schmidt performed “Follies” at the Marquis Theatre the same year.

“A Little Night Music” opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway in February 1973. From there it expanded across the globe, including this Australian performance at the New Her Majesty’s Theatre, starring Anna Russell and Jennie Cullen.

1974’s “Frogs” was revived starring Nathan Lane in 2004 at the Lincoln Center Theater.

The same year, B.D. Wong, kneeling center in black, and company revived Sondheim’s 1976 musical “Pacific Overtures.”

“Sweeney Todd,” with music and lyrics by Sondheim, won the Tony Award for best musical in 1979. Elaine Paige and Mark Delavan brought back the dark production at the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center, also in 2004.

1981’s “Merrily We Roll Along” was considered a disappointment, closing after only 16 post-preview performances. Still, Colin Donnell, left, Celia Keean-Bolger, Lin-Manuel Miranda revived the musical at New York City Center in 2012.

1984’s “Sunday in the Park With George” re-imagined pointillist painter Georges Seurat. The production was staged at Studio 54 in 2008.

At a brunch at Sardi’s honoring the 1984 Tony Award nominees, Mandy Patinkin embraces his co-star, Bernadette Peters. Both were nominated for their work in the original production of “Sunday in the Park With George.” Neither won.

1987’s “Into the Woods,” which draws on several familiar fairy tales, is one of Sondheim’s most popular musicals. The 2002 revival stars Kerry O’Malley, Stephen DeRosa, Vanessa Williams and John McMartin. In 2014, Disney turned the show into a film starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt and Johnny Depp.

1994’s “Passion” had the shortest run of any show that has won the Tony Award for best musical: 280 performances. Michael Cerveris and Rebecca Luker starred in a 2002 performance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

“Saturday Night” was to have opened on Broadway in 1954-55, when Sondheim was just 23. But because of the lead producer’s death, it did not. It premiered in New York at the off-Broadway Second Stage Theatre on Feb. 17, 2000, where it ran for 45 performances.

Sondheim’s “Assassins” peered into the hearts and minds of infamous killers. It bowed in New York in 1990, but wasn’t produced on Broadway until 14 years later. Alexander Gemignani starred as John Hinckley Jr. in the 2004 production, which won five Tonys.

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