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Hat Box: The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim Hardcover – December 6, 2011

4.9 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Stephen Sondheim has written award-winning music and lyrics for theater, film and television. He is also the coauthor of the film The Last of Sheila and the play Getting Away with Murder. Sondheim is on the council of the Dramatists Guild of America, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 898 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Slp edition (December 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307957721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307957726
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 2.4 x 11.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Seaman VINE VOICE on March 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Some of us became aware of Stephen Sondheim for the genuis that he is in the early 70's. As a professor of music and theatre I've been teaching Sondheim's music and lyrics for 26 years. I've found that there is no subject about which must be taught that Stephen Sondheim has not written a song (or indeed and entire show) about. Starting in 1976 I began to tout praise for Sondheim's work with his musical "Pacific Overtures." When "Cats" took the Tony award over "Sunday In The Park With George" I told everyone, "Just wait and see." Six months later "Sunday" became the fifth musical in history to win The Pulitzer Pr5ize. When "Merrily We Roll Along" closed after 17 performances I said, "The audience is too stupid to understand it." The TV show "Lost" taught the public about time travel in storytelling and now "Merrily" has enjoyed a renaissance.
It reminded me of how, as a college student, I worked at the Harvard Coop and I overheard someone say to her friend, in that Boston accent, "I don't want Aht; I want postuhs." Well "Cats" is a big poster and it's taken until the 21st century but at last the theatre community (such that it is) and the public are finally recognizing the genuis that is Sondheim's words and music.
J.S. Bach wasn't known as a composer until fifty years after his death. Byt that time an estimated 50% of his music was lost.
Sondheim, from age 79 to 82 has written two massive books that match. The first is called "Finishing The Hat" and the second is called "Look, I Made a Hat" The titles are references to one of his finest songs from the score "Sunday In The Park With George" in which an artists is explaining how he is driven to work. Will his lover be waiting in the bed when the grass, the hat and the parasol have finally found their way?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Sondheim fan (though not as monomaniacally worshipful as some) I have positive but not unmixed feelings about this book, as I did about the previous volume, Finishing the Hat. Overall I'd highly recommend both, in fact think they are invaluable for anyone interested at all in American musical theatre. But to the old expression that children, law, and sausage are three things one should not watch being made, I might add a fourth: art. As with the first book, I sometimes shook my head in dismay and wonderment, asking myself, "was that REALLY what you were thinking when you wrote ...?" I was so disappointed to find that the wittiest line in West Side Story was not an intentional play on words, but a compromise because SS couldn't drop an f-bomb. ("Krup you" is witty. The f-bomb wouldn't even have been funny.) The letdown in this volume was to find that the shooting-gallery setting in Assassins (my favourite of his works) was in the source material, not Sondheim's invention. In sum, if you approach the book believing that Sondheim really is God, and that art springs whole and perfect like Athena from Zeus's brow, expect to be disillusioned. Art is work, and work is often drudgery. (If you have ever even tried to write, though, you'll smile wryly and often laugh out loud.)

Buy this book especially for the section on Wise Guys/Bounce/Road Show. The Mizners and Sondheim were like Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar: He just couldn't quit them. This lengthy section is a great detailed case study of how a musical gets put together, taken apart, put together again. Theatre is a collaborative art, perhaps the ultimate collaborative art, and collaboration invariably involves compromises, with other artists, with the material, with the audience.
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Format: Hardcover
This second (and final) volume sees Sondheim amend some of the omissions in his last book, and of course is a study of his lyrical contributions from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to his most recent ROAD SHOW, with a litany of attendant side-notes that enhance and reveal his craft.

Other reviewers had noted that the greater part of this book examines the evolving developments of his WISE GUYS/BOUNCE/ROAD SHOW odyssey and this is devoid of any criticism of collaborators - a noble feat, considering the public spats and litigation that flowered this particular theatrical effort.

The essays in this book are less frequent than before, and his wonderful perceptions of the theatrical lyricists that colored his last endeavor are reduced to two minor articles in brief overview of some of the lesser-known practitioners like John La Touche and Hugh Martin. I could have done with more of these, as Sondheim has a natural facility for criticism. Other essays detail his views of his musical revivals and the tinkering that theatrical directors bring to them. "Critics and Their Uses" is a measured article that is less blasting than expected, considering the barrage of attack that he has been subjected to over the years. As the author is the winner of an Oscar, countless Tony awards and more significant achievements like the Pulitzer Prize, we are presented with a good and balanced article on the merit (or lack thereof) of winning and worth.

Some of the more obscure lyrics that Sondheim has written for friends and aborted projects are documented, and as the accompanying music is unknown, the reader has a chance to guess the tunes dictated by Sondheim's rhythmical meters and hear their own inner music.
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