What I love about Sondheim

-His acerbic tone when he’s interviewed

-The variety of worlds that he writes about – and then finds the styles to write them in

-That entertainment can be clever and being clever is delicious

-The wordplay, even though sometimes it reads better than it sings

-That you feel “this is true, I agree with this” when you read his lyrics and really take the time to consider them

-The opportunities provided by the shows that he has written – they can be interpreted in so many ways, directors can make their own points with them – but nonetheless he (and Weidman, Laurents, Prince, Furth, Lapine etc) always leaves you with his point

-How moving his work is

-The range of song ideas he has come up with

-If Lloyd Webber was the crush that made me realise “I like musicals”, then Sondheim was who made me think “I’m in love”

-How considerate he always is in sharing the credit with his bookwriters and directors

-That almost every lyric he has written feels both effortless and 100% the best thing he could come up with

-That he is always the flag we can wave when people bag musicals as having no depth (there’s tons more writers and shows of course, but Sondheim is pretty much a checkmate)

-How glorious it is to properly learn and sing his music (not that I sing anymore – but I still remember how proud I was to pull off the Now/Later/Soon trio)

-How influential he still is (would there be a Next to Normal/Spring Awakening etc without him?)

-That Pacific Overtures is quite pleasant as background dinner music (most musicals demand you get up and dance, or become emotionally involved with their journey)

I met Sondheim once at a Q&A at the Sydney Opera House.  He was charming (though quite sick with flu) and told a lot of the stories I’d devoured in print/online elsewhere.  But then he opened the floor and I nervously put mine forward –

Me: How do you know what song to write for a scene/moment?

Sondheim: If I knew that, life would be a lot easier.  (Laugh from audience, nervous titter from me). I think that a song should always surprise an audience – come at an unexpected place, be sung by the character you don’t expect, be about something you never thought of.

I liked that advice very much.

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things. www.bryantandfrank.com www.mybrilliantcareermusical.com www.deanjamesbryant.com

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