INTO THE WOODS
MUSIC & LYRICS
PREVIOUS SONDHEIM WORKS AT PBTS
2002: Side by Side by Sondheim
2008: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Beginning a Career in Theatre
In the early 1950s, Stephen Sondheim moved to Los Angeles, California, and wrote scripts for the television series Topper and The Last Word. Returning to New York, he composed background music for the play The Girls of Summer in 1956. An acquaintance with director Arthur Laurents brought Sondheim into contact with composer Leonard Bernstein and choreographer Jerome Robbins, who were looking for a lyricist for a contemporary musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Writing the song lyrics forWest Side Story, which opened in 1957, Sondheim thus became part of one of Broadway's most successful productions of all time.
Sondheim's next theater project was similarly high profile: He teamed up with composer Jule Styne to write the lyrics for Gypsy, which opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as its star. After musical contributions to 1960's Invitation to a March, Sondheim then wrote both lyrics and music for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, a Zero Mostel farce based on comedies by ancient playwright Plautus. It opened in 1962, ran for nearly 1,000 performances and won a Tony Award for best musical.
Broadway Hits & Collaborations
Sondheim won several more Tony Awards in the 1970s for his collaborations with producer/director Harold Prince, including the musicals Company (1970), a meditation on contemporary marriage and commitment; Follies(1971), an homage to the Ziegfeld Follies and early Broadway; A Little Night Music (1973), a period comedy-drama that included the hit song "Send in the Clowns"; and Sweeney Todd (1979), a gory melodrama set in Victorian London destined to become a 2007 Tim Burton film.
Sondheim became known for his witty, conversational lyrics, his seamless merging of words with music and the variety of his source materials. Pacific Overtures (1976) was partially inspired by haiku poetry and Japanese Kabuki theater, and 1981's Merrily We Roll Along was adapted from a 1934 play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
In the 1980s, Sondheim collaborated several times with playwright/director James Lapine. Their Sunday in the Park with George, which opened in 1984, was inspired by the iconic painting "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat, and 1987's Into the Woods was a collage of plots from classic fairy tales. (The latter was eventually made into a 2014 film starring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden and Anna Kendrick, among an ensemble cast.)
Later Works & Revivals
Sondheim continued to combine various musical genres with sharp lyrical writing and unexpected subject matter in the 1990s, though some of his work of that decade received less critical and popular acclaim. Assassins (1990) told the tales of nine presidential assassins in American history; and Passion, a 1994 collaboration with Lapine, was a melodramatic romance based on the Italian film Passione d'Amore.
Sondheim also wrote five songs for the 1990 film Dick Tracy, starring Warren Beatty and Madonna, and won an Academy Award for "Sooner or Later."
Sondheim's work has also been the subject of several revues, including Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976, Putting It Together in 1992 and Sondheim on Sondheim in 2010. Broadway has continued to host Sondheim classics as well, including the 2009 revivals of West Side Story and A Little Night Music, with the latter starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury. 2011 saw a revival of Follies with Bernadette Peters.
Sondheim, who lives in New York City, was honored as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2015.
Text from biography.com. Click here for full story.