“An Evening with Stephen Sondheim”
MONTGOMERY – On February 6, hundreds of theatre fanatics, including students from Montgomery High School gathered in Weber Chapel at Susquehanna University to show their appreciation for the world renown composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim. Sitting down for a “conversation” with W. Douglas Powers, Sondheim talks about his life and his experiences, and mostly about how he got to where he is now.
Sondheim grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Williams College attempting to achieve a math degree, but veering off the track he found that music was his destiny. While in his early adulthood he collaborated and learned from Oscar Hammerstein. He was a family friend and had taken Sondheim under his wing while he was learning all it took to be a composer.
When Sondheim was sharing his fond memories of Hammerstein, one could feel the warmth of their time together. How they both loved what they were doing and how when they interacted together, it seemed to just be pure magic. Oscar Hammerstein guided Sondheim and gave him the foundation and knowledge to start the beginning of a tremendous career. Just after Sondheim had contributed to the lyrics for West Side Story and Gypsy, Hammerstein passed away in 1960. The show had to go on.
By now everyone knew of Sondheim and his present achievements and could only predict the future ones to come. His first show as both composer and lyricist, ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’, lasted longer than anyone could have expected. Then came ‘Anyone Can Whistle, Do I Hear a Waltz?’ and ‘Evening Primrose’, a television musical.
Sondheim knew the value of working with others, bouncing off ideas, getting a fresh pair of eyes, and bringing different things to the table. Sondheim threw himself into what he knew was right, what was meant to be. He worked with Harold Prince, James Lapine, Jule Styne, James Goldman, and George Furth, altogether creating masterpieces: Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Road Show, just to name a few.
Sondheim has won The Kennedy Center Honors, a Pultizer Prize, two Grammys, an Oscar and eight Tonys; Academy Award for Best Original Song, Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award for Best Original Score, Special Tony Award, Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.
Ending the night with audience question and answer, he is asked what he is trying to teach us. Sondheim concisely responded, “I’m not trying to teach you anything. I’m trying to teach you everything.” Sondheim tells us that no matter what you want to do with your life, make it count. ” It’d be shameful to not try for anything”, “Don’t be afraid of making a fool of yourself”, “pursue your dreams–work towards a goal and don’t waste your time.”
An audience member asked him what he would say to his 20 year old self, and he responded with “Ya done good buddy boy.”