Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim was the most highly regarded composer/lyricist for the musical theater in his generation. Having his first musical produced on Broadway in 1957 and his 14th in 1994, he straddled two eras. The broadly popular musical theater of his early years gradually became a more insular art form, addressing a smaller, more dedicated, more serious audience. This jibed perfectly with the composer's own tendencies. In a sense, he was to the world of show tunes what Bob Dylan was to that of pop songs, a songwriter who turned the genre to more mature and intelligent concerns and away from mere entertainment. Of those 14 musicals, nine had runs of between 500 and 1,000 performances in their initial productions, and, as of 2010, ten had had at least one Broadway revival since. All 14 have been recorded for cast albums at least twice. Sondheim won Tony Awards for his music and lyrics for six of the 11 musicals for which he wrote both. He also won an Academy Award for best song, a Pulitzer Prize, and numerous Grammy Awards including one for Song of the Year. Such recognition suggests the esteem in which he was held. Even when musicals turned toward more grandiose and broadly entertaining approaches in the 1980s and ‘90s, his works remained the standard by which musical theater aficionados and fans of sophisticated popular music measured competing fare.