The news alert came from the New York Times Friday evening. Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim had died.
I immediately thought back to a time in San Antonio, Texas, when I was in a production of Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” That’s the show that includes his most famous song, “Send in the Clowns.”
Now, keep in mind, this was at least thirty years ago. Back during a time that I thought I had a good singing voice. For the record, I was okay. Certainly not good enough to tackle the complexities of a Stephen Sondheim score. As I think about it, nobody in that cast should have been doing that show either. Hahaha!
I couldn’t sing the part. I didn’t understand the show. It wasn’t until years later that I saw “A Little Night Music” on Broadway that I finally got what the thing was about.
That, I think was the thing about Stephen Sondheim. You need professionals doing his shows. Yes, an amateur can do “A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum” or “West Side Story.” It’s the other stuff like “Night Music” or “Merrily We Roll Along” that requires real interpretation.
Stephen Sondheim was that kind of writer and composer. Complicated. Probably too smart for his own good. He will be remembered for that, I think.
Sondheim elevated the Broadway theatre. He was more than just a writer of musicals. He was an observer of the connections we have with each other.
Watch “Company” sometime. You see how he writes about people and their relationships.
There will be many things written and said about Stephen Sondheim over the next few days.
Barbra Streisand wrote about him: “Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such great music and lyrics.”
I think that’s a perfect tribute. We had him and his talent for a very long time.
I just wish I had understood what I was singing about when I was singing his music.