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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Secrest interviewed composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim extensively for this full-scale biography, resulting in a portrait as subtle and sophisticated as its subject. Son of a wealthy New York City dress designer and manufacturer of German-Jewish extraction, Sondheim, an only child born in 1930, was emotionally neglected by his distant father, Herbert, and by his domineering mother, Janet (Foxy). Herbert left her when their son was 10 to live with his blonde, Catholic, Cuban lover, Alicia Bab?, whom he married after they had two sons. Oscar Hammerstein II became mentor and surrogate father to Sondheim, who grew up isolated, keeping people at a distance. Sondheim discusses with Secrest his 25 years of psychoanalysis, his homosexuality, his early stumbling career as actor and TV scriptwriter, and his working relationships with such pivotal figures in his life as producer Hal Prince and playwright-director Arthur Laurents. Biographer of Leonard Bernstein and Frank Lloyd Wright, Secrest has written a wonderful biography of an uncompromising musical dramatist who uses irony, wit and disillusion to probe painful emotions. Decked out with memorable photographs, her moving and perceptive portrait, full of Broadway lore, provides an incomparable peek into the genesis of such musicals as West Side Story, Gypsy, A Little Night Music and Passion.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Very interesting reading. I've read several books so far on Sondheim..one of which was on th making of Follies. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very good. In interesting inside look as to his early life and influences.Published 7 months ago by miss s horne
I am a huge fan of Mr. Sondheim and his work. I had the privilege of seeing the original Company in 1971 and a revival in 2007. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Lindsey Ripa
Superb study, with excellent treatment and documentation of sources, that casts a great deal of light on Sondheim's work and is also instructive reading for people interested in... Read morePublished 15 months ago by No snappy nickname
It was thought lost and they delivered
I thought it gone and they persevered
They foundeth it a replacement and had it on the launching pad at the ready
They... Read more
Sondheim really changed theatre. He was a man who was not afraid of failing -- not having smash hits -- which he did very often. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Alvin M. Chanin
I have read the biographies by Secrest of Richard Rodgers and Leonard Bernstein, and Secrest's portrait of Stephen Sondheim is a MUST for any serious student of American Musical... Read morePublished on June 11, 2013 by songbird
enjoyed all the background information in the beginning of the book that was about his childhood ad how he was molded into who he is today. Read morePublished on November 19, 2012 by Andrew Thomson