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Stephen Sondheim: A life
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385334125, Paperback)America's foremost musical-theater composer also proves to be a fascinatingly complex and conflicted human being in this meticulous biography by the always-capable Meryle Secrest (Being Bernard Berenson, etc.). Stephen Sondheim himself was interviewed for the book, as were many of his closest friends, and the author makes perceptive use of this material. Born in 1930, Sondheim was a successful Broadway lyricist (West Side Story and Gypsy) before he was 30. But the scars from a miserable childhood remained: he was inclined to be distant, hypercritical of those less intelligent than he, and terrified of serious emotional commitment. Critics sometimes found those qualities in the series of groundbreaking musicals he created with director Hal Prince--Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, to name four--but they agreed that he brought new intellectual ambition and artistic adventurousness to the musical theater. Secrest does a fine job of delineating Sondheim's career in terms of what it tells us about the state of American theater, as when he shifted to a partnership with writer-director James Lapine and worked in the nonprofit sector for such musicals as Sunday in the Park with George and Assassins. She also does well in selecting revealing quotes to depict the composer's struggle to accept his homosexuality and a rage at his overbearing mother so deep that he didn't even attend her funeral. Sondheim the man and Sondheim the visionary artist get nearly equal time in an intriguing portrait.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Feb 2013 13:59:50 -0500)
In the first full-scale life of the most important composer-lyricist at work in musical theatre today, Meryle Secrest draws on her extended conversations with Stephen Sondheim as well as on her interviews with his friends, family, collaborators, and lovers to bring us not only the artist - as a master of modernist compositional style - but also the private man. We see Sondheim at work with composers, producers, directors, co-writers, actors, the greats of his time and ours, among them Leonard Bernstein, Ethel Merman, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Robbins, Zero Mostel, Bernadette Peters, and Lee Remick (with whom it was said he was in love, and she with him), as Secrest vividly re-creates the energy, the passion, the despair, the excitement, the genius, that went into the making of show after Sondheim show.
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