Stephen Sondheim was born 22nd of March 1930 in New York City. He was known to have always had an interest in Musicals he also started studying the piano and organ. When we was 15 he had already written a musical this was not later one of his successful shows however. He grew to know Oscar Hammerstein II very well as he was good friends with Hammerstein’s son, and he soon became his mentor. After he graduated he went on to write the script for the television show ‘Topper’ and also was the lyricist for musicals such as ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Gypsy’. In 1962 he wrote the music and lyrics for ‘Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ which later won a Tony. Ore of his work includes ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Company’, ‘Merrily We Roll Along’, ‘ Into the Woods’ as well as many other great pieces of work.
I found that whilst I have been looking for social context for Sondheim it has been very difficult. This is because Sondheim has had such a long career you can’t pinpoint a specific musical to any current events at the time. However this is what I did find.
The Musical Company was very successful and was one of the first musicals that revolved around adult themes and relationships. The audiences in the 70s and before were mostly made up of upper to middle class people and so they went to the theatre to get escape their problems, however this musical just throws it back at their faces. Sondheim even said “these people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with Company talking about how we’re going to bring it right back in their faces”. This makes me think that Sondheim started bringing taboo themes into the theatre world to possibly show that people can’t keep avoiding these problems or maybe that they’re not so bad and these people should toughen up and deal with it. After the success of this show as well there have been many more musicals now that would have never been allowed to be performed back in the 1970s, for example The Book of Mormon, it has a great message but it does offend every race, religion,. Gender and anything else under the sun.
- The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica(2015), Stephen Sondheim: American Composer and Lyricist, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stephen-Sondheim(14/09/16)
- (2016) Company Musical, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_(musical), (21/09/16)