For the last 50 years, Stephen Sondheim has been considered one of America’s most talented, innovative, and exciting lyricists and composers. Frank Rich called him “the greatest . . . artist in the American musical theater.” A protégé of Oscar Hammerstein II, Sondheim has composed music and written lyrics for works in the mainstream of musical theater and also for those in a more adventuresome, experimental mode. His lyrics are among the finest ever crafted, and many of his melodies are singable and memorable. Other compositions, however, present challenges to those accustomed to traditional theater music. In this course, Paul Hope will cover both Sondheim’s mainstream and his experimental works, which he will illustrate using vintage film clips and recordings of songs.
October 20: SONDHEIM, THE LYRICIST
Sondheim made his mark as a lyricist with the legendary musicals, West Side Story and Gypsy. His witty, trenchant words and rhymes placed him in the ranks of musical theater’s most talented and accomplished writers. This session will examine Sondheim as a lyricist and will cover his earliest scores.
October 27: SONDHEIM AND PRINCE
Sondheim collaborated with Harold Prince during the middle, most productive years of his career. Prince directed six of Sondheim’s major musicals including Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, and Pacific Overtures. Together, they developed what came to be known as the “concept” musical, in which a theme or an idea, rather than traditional narrative, provides the organizing principle. Nevertheless, they did not entirely abandon the art of storytelling: witness such Sondheim-Prince collaborations as A Little Night Music. This session will explore Sondheim’s rich collaboration with Prince during the 1970s.
November 3: LATER SONDHEIM
Following his highly successful work with Harold Prince, Sondheim joined forces with other artists, particularly James Lapine, the playwright and director. Their collaboration resulted in such fascinating works as Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, Assassins, and Into the Woods, based on Grimm’s fairy tales. In the final session, Paul Hope will examine Sondheim’s work with Lapine and assess the overall effects of Sondheim’s unique achievements and his ongoing influence on musical theater.
Paul Hope is a member of the Alley Theatre company and has appeared on the Alley stages for 14 seasons in a wide range of roles. He has also appeared with Theater Under the Stars in Houston and Casa Mañana in Fort Worth. He is the artistic director for Bayou City Concert Musicals, which has presented concert stagings of several Sondheim musicals.
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