Johnny's movies

Stephen Sondheim Life of a legend

Posted in Books, Johnny Depp, movies by Anna Maria Polidori on January 3, 2015

The life of Stephen Sondheim undiscussed genius of Broadway and Hollywood is an online magazine specialized in Broadway. “Everything you always wanted to ask about Broadway but were afraid to ask” can be their sloagan.

It wasn’t difficult to find in their website an accurate biography of Stephen Sondheim and his life written by Pat Cerasaro. Following what the journalist wrote, I will try to reconstruct for you Sondheim’s life.



Into the Woods is undoubtedly 10613027_782460528477109_2604017585244243629_n a wonderful success at the cinema because  created, written by the most creative men existing in this world, re-created for the big screen by the same original inventors. Director Rob Marshall in love for musicals since he was a kid, with Chicago won six Academy Awards Winner prizes including Best Pictures. There is a wonderful cast with spectacularly and so talented actors. Just two names: Johnny Depp in the role of the Lascivious Wolf 10418930_347182822122034_4390819864793033550_n had previously worked years ago in the movie production directed by Tim Burton  based on Sondheim’s musical: Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, an Oscar Winning movie of course, in the role of Sweeney Todd.  Meryl Streep in the role of The Witch Sondheim, Streep and Marshall is one of the biggest and most talented and eclectic Hollywood’s icons.


Stephen Sondheim started his fertile activity as writer and creators of songs for theater at just 25 years and in the ’50s was born one of his most important work, the legendary West Side Story.

Sondheim was introduced in the environment by legendary producer, lyricist and showman Oscar Hammerstein.

His first musical Saturday Night (pretty common in theater experiencing problems like these ones) suffered from the departure of the lead producer Lemuel Ayers so it couldn’t receive the good launch it deserved.

Talent is talent and the year after Arthur Laurents his future collaborator, suggested him to joining the West Side Story team.
At first, Sondheim’s role had to be marginal because he would have joined other lyricists, but this one became his biggest success. It was clear that Sondheim started to create his big fame with West Side Story. The impact of West Side Story impressive in the American society.

Although the big success of West Side Story another success was borning. It was Gipsy considered by the estimators of Musicals and Broadway one of the best musicals ever created by Sondheim.

The musical consecrated definitively to Broadway Sondheim is A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.
It’s with Evening Primrose that Sondheim redefined the meaning of musical. First of all it was important to focusing on what the musical wanted to spread and communicate to the viewers and the impact on the society .


In the 70s and 80s other wonderful Sondheim’s masterpieces, including Sweeney Todd the story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a musical later would have been put on the big screen by Tim Burton as director and Johnny Depp as protagonist in the role of Sweeney and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Lovett, Sweeney’s wife.

The world had discovered the great potentialities of Stephen Sondheim in the ’50s and 60s. In the while the author consolidated his profession as songwriter. The 70s Sondheim introduced the concept musical COMPANY.

Sondheim starts his long collaboration with Harold Prince for creating sophisticated adult musicals.

It is another great intuition and success.

Sondheim won Tony Awards as Best Direction Of A Musical, Best Music, Best Lyrics and much more.

Sondheim starts a collaboration with Jonathan Tunick.

Follies other Broadway’s musical was based on a book written by James Goldman.
The story the one of a showgirl reunion set on the eve’s of a theater’s demolition. Past, present, expectations of the past, broken dreams, actual life, ghosts of the pasts a miscellaneous if intense sentiments, leading the characters to a wildly phantasmagoria.

Prince wrote the songs for Ingrid Bergman’s comedy Smiles of a summer night, called A little night magic.

The story: Desiree an actress remembers her love story with a lawyer. This lawyer married with a teen-ager was unable to consummate the union. A little night magic won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Sondheim received another time the Best Original Score.

A great lover for theater and genius like Sondheim couldn’t avoid  the old greek theater maybe the most creative one of the old times with Aristophanes’ comedy The frogs.

Sondheim wrote it with Burt Shevelove. The comedy at first was presented in the Yale swimming pool. The cast included Meryl Street, Sigourney Weaver.

Sondheim collaborated later with Anthony Perkins on an original screenplay for the mystery film The last of Sheila by Herbert Ross.

The final musical created by Sondheim and Prince is SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.
It was a big success of public and Sondheim won a lot of Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

It’s the end of the collaboration with Prince and the beginning of a new era of collaborations with James Lapine.

Their first work together was a big success: Sunday in the park with George.

The story is the one of a painter living in Paris. Sondheim received for this comedy the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

It’s with INTO THE WOODS that Sondheim and Lapine, using a patchwork of fairy-tales, the most beloved and known ones by Brothers Grimm and inserting then in an original fairy tale invented by them, the one of the Baker and the Wife, created a wonderful psychologic profound masterpiece. It was 1987 and Into the Woods was launched in Broadway and it was one of the biggest success of the American Musical. Immediately loved, immediately performed by schools and theaters, it’s one of the most acclaimed musicals of all the times.

Sondheim had characterized more or less all the world and every possible character.

But…What about….A comic book?

Yes Sondheim wrote the soundtrack of Dick Tracy. It meant to Sondheim to set free the creative world of the various characters, giving to them more life and expressivity.

The result? Another success of course.
Sondheim brought home the Academy Award for Best Song thanks to Madonnas’ song: “Sooner of Later“. Wonderful!

Passion, the story of a 19th soldier an ill household paramour won the Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book and Best Actress in A Musicals and many other prizes.

It’s in this existential phase that Stephen Sondheim is reached by Penny Marshall a  director interested in producing Into the Woods.
The cast, as it happened also for the realization of Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods wonderfully talented.

In the cast names were these ones:
Cher, Robin Williams, Goldie Hawn, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Danny De Vito etc.

Attemps remained attempts in the 1990s.

Sondheim was back to his first love and a territory he knew from a life: theater, adapting the tale of real brothers Addison and Wilson Mizner. This musical with the time changed names various times. It was born as Wise Guys directed by Sam Mendes, then Gold and Bounce and at the end it became Road Show.

Stephen Sondheim wrote two autobiographical books: Finishing the hat and later Look, I had a hat. I highly suggest these books to everyone.
Finishing the hat will explain the creative process of Into the Woods, so don’t miss the opportunity of reading it.

Other three notable Broadway revues? Putting it together 1999, Sondheim on Sondheim 2010. Last year it was the turn of A bed and a chair.



Anna Maria Polidori




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