Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finishing the Hat

Stephen Sondheim is the greatest living theatre composer alive. Maybe even the greatest of the past 30 years. He writes music and lyrics, not just music like Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is the combination of music and lyrics that have kept him at the top of the list and made his songs the go to ones for auditions, concerts and recordings. His shows of course are ones that have broken new ground as well. Musicals of demon barbers, aging showgirls, a bachelor afraid to grow old alone or the stories behind fairly tales aren't exactly ones that would get produced today in the current world of turning movies into musicals, so we should all realize just how fortunate we are that thinking was different back in the 70's and 80's and that we have so many amazing Sondheim shows because of it.

Sondheim recently published a book of his lyrics, "Finishing The Hat".  This is actually the first of two books, the second volume will be released this coming Fall. "Finishing the Hat" covers Sondheim's show from his first, "Saturday Night" through to "Merrily We Roll Along". The book is an unbelievably rich endeavor filled with not only the lyrics to his shows, but also lyrics for cut songs and alternate versions as well. Sondheim also has plenty to say about the shows and lyrics as well as the many individuals he worked with. The actual name of the book is "Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes."   Sondheim's comments give much insight into how his shows developed, giving the reader a bird's eye view into the creation of some of the greatest musicals ever. I can't recommend this book more highly.

Amazon link - Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes

A little Sondheim from Youtube...

First up, Patti LuPone singing "The Ladies Who Lunch" from COMPANY, from the recent 80th Birthday Concert.

More from COMPANY- Raúl Esparza singing "Marry Me A Little" from the recent Broadway revival... I think this is my favorite Sondheim song.

My second most favorite Sondheim song - also from COMPANY - "Being Alive" from the Broadway cast recording session and the documentary of the making of that album ...

"Epiphany" from SWEENEY TODD - sung by George Hearn - from the film made of the National tour that also starred Angela Lansbury....

more "Sweeney" - this time  the Tony Award performance of the Revival cast starring Michael Cerveris and Patti LuPone

one last one- my third most favorite Sondheim song, "Finishing the Hat" from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE sung by Daniel Evans who starred in the recent Broadway revival of the show...

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