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About the book
  • Published: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780753522585
  • Imprint: Virgin Books
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $85.00

Finishing the Hat

The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim (Volume 1) with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines and anecdotes




Stephen Sondheim is 'the undisputed king of the American musical', and this first volume of his memoirs and lyrics offers an unprecedented insight into this lyrical genius and his work.

Stephen Sondheim has been a Tony winner, an Academy Award winner, a Grammy winner, and a Pullitzer Prize winner, his career has spanned over half a century, and his lyrics have become synonymous with musical theatre and popular culture. He really needs no introduction. In the world of songwriting, this is about as big as it gets.
Along with the lyrics for all of Sondheim's productions from 1954 to 1981, we are treated to memories and tales from his life that only Sondheim could tell. But he also educates us: he tells us what he's learned from his failures as well as his successes; and dissects many songs, sometimes line by line, to outline his thought process and the decisions that go into the verses. Sondheim discusses his predecessors, his contemporaries, and analyzes his own work, offering rules, sins and wisdom on lyric writing that will definitely be studied for many years to come.
Accompanying Sondheim's wonderful writing are unique and behind-the-scenes photographs from each production and many personal photographs of Sondheim with his contemporaries and collaborators. We'll be including one-of-a-kind, hand-written material from Sondheim's collection that fans will be thrilled to see.
This book is rich with history, gossip, and delightful detail that brings us back to a time when theater was truly one of the pillars of culture. And after all these years, Sondheim's work still holds up and is being revived again and again all over the world.
Insightful, poignant, sometimes scathing, and often funny, Finishing the Hat is destined to be one more thing that Sondheim can add to his list of classic works.

  • Pub date: 1 November 2010
  • ISBN: 9780753522585
  • Imprint: Virgin Books
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 480
  • RRP: $85.00

About the Author

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim has written award-winning music and lyrics for theatre, film, and television. He is also the coauthor of the film The Last of Sheila and the play Getting Away with Murder. Sondheim is on the council of the Dramatists Guild of America, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981. He lives in New York City.

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Praise for Finishing the Hat

“Stephen is a writer you can readily bracket with Shakespeare and Chekhov. He should not to be thought of as a writer of musicals, but as a writer of theatre who understands all its possibilities, and who has extraordinary wit and insight into character. As we enter the 21st century, his status as one of the greats is absolutely secure.”

Trevor Nunn

“Is Sondheim the Shakespeare of musical theatre? With Sondheim, it's always a challenge. It's difficult and exhilarating ... which is why Sondheim is for grownups and why his work is often so profound.”

Michael Ball, Guardian

“The truth about Sondheim is that he is a prophet with very little honour in his own land ... The genius of Sondheim resides in the articulation of human emotion. Such reticence is more English in character than American”

Norman LeBrecht

“He is, by universal acknowledgement, the man who revolutionised American musical theatre and the last survivor of a form that is all but extinct. As well as the joy of reading Sondheim's lyrics in full, Finishing the Hat provides a masterclass in the art of lyric-writing.”

Mick Brown, Saturday Telegraph Magazine

“This book is far more than a brilliant insight into the art of writing for the musical theatre, it is also a unique and revelatory critique of many giants of the genre including the author himself. Forthright, perceptive and continually fascinating...Stephen Sondheim is rightly a living legend as a composer/lyricist but he is also a superb natural teacher and this book will be a timeless legacy...The Gods of theatre salute you.”

Cameron Mackintosh

“Like its author: fascinating, precise, opinionated, brilliant”

Sam Mendes

“As eloquent an insight into the creative process as i've ever read. The theatre book of the decade.”

Nicholas Hytner


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