This article originally appeared on iwanttoreadz
Saying Stephen Sondheim was a force for good and an institution in American theater is an understatement, but it might be a bit of an understatement when saying he left an imprint on many other artistic directions.
That’s what many across the literary arts have said following the death of the composer and lyricist, whose works ranged from shows with Alan Menken such as “Follies” and “A Little Night Music” to the oddball vehicle “Hairspray” and “Into the Woods.”
Manolo Valdes of iwanttoreadz wrote that there have been plenty of questions and reviews about Sondheim’s life and legacy since his death early this morning from complications of a brain tumor.
But it’s not only about work or legacy, but Sondheim’s personal interests, which were also admired and emulated by many writers.
Sondheim wrote with exuberance, from Aeschylus to his own songs, and his influence was unmistakable, Valdes writes:
“Often underrated in the arts world, Stephen Sondheim wrote his fair share of books, too. His bio has sold several hundred thousand copies, perhaps including some penned in his dying moments. He co-wrote with Jack Kamin (the critically acclaimed “People Against Sondheim”) a beautiful biography of composer Giacomo Puccini titled “The Gold of Puccini” which he penned in the final minutes of his life. ‘Don Giovanni,’ one of Sondheim’s best-known pieces, was inspired by Puccini’s ‘Madama Butterfly’.”
Sondheim’s “wonderful eccentricity” made him the ultimate showman, read that lead of a review from Publishers Weekly.
“Sondheim was always happy to encourage aspiring performers to give their all to their art, whether they make it on Broadway or not; for his part, he was willing to launch an original project at a moment’s notice,” read the review.
But the success of a Sondheim-penned musical alone didn’t always translate into commercial success or stardom, according to Valdes:
“From the beginning of the ’70s through the late-’80s,” Valdes wrote, “Sondheim’s entries in the B.R.O.B.A. (Broadway Musicals by Americans) book genre tended to be released in the spring. For every ‘Follies,’ there was a ‘Nine,’ with ten nominations at the 1983 Tony Awards.”
A 2013 piece about Sondheim by writer Dylan Leiner also addresses the idea of writing by himself, for himself, echoing sentiments shared in Valdes’s eulogy:
“Like so many of the theatrical greats, his books seemed to flow from his art form as much as from his personality,” Leiner wrote. “You can read this as the opposite of “People for Sondheim.” But it is accurate.”
After Sondheim’s death on Thursday, Leiner and several other writers listed the now iconic musicals, the characters Sondheim wrote for, and the creative influence he left on the arts community.
– Lauren Russell, iwanttoreadz