The Collected Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim (Volume 1) with attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines and anecdotes
'Stephen is a writer you can readily bracket with Shakespeare and Chekhov' Trevor Nunn
The winner of seven Tonys, seven Grammys, an Oscar, and a Pulitzer Prize, Stephen Sondheim has become synonymous with the best in musical theatre. Now, in Finishing the Hat, he has not only collected his lyrics for the first time, he's giving readers a rare, personal look into his extraordinary shows and life.
Along with the lyrics, both published and unpublished, for all of his productions from 1954 to 1981 - including West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd, which have starred some of the most famous and talented actors in the world from Johnny Depp and Catherine Zeta Jones, to Judi Dench and Alan Rickman, Finishing the Hat is a celebration of the act of creation. Sondheim discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with legends Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, Angela Lansbury, and countless others. His anecdotes - rich with history, personal insights, and intimate details - transport us back to a time when theatre was a major pillar of American culture. And throughout the book, Sondheim analyses his work and dissects his own songs as well as those of others, offering unparalleled insight into songwriting that will be studied for years to come.
Brilliant, poignant, scathing, and funny, Finishing the Hat is the newest production Sondheim can add to his list of classic works.
“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.”
“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”
“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.”
“Like its author: fascinating, precise, opinionated, brilliant”
“As eloquent an insight into the creative process as i've ever read. The theatre book of the decade.”
“An eye-widening treasure chest of manuscript sketches of first ideas and second thoughts, rehearsal shots, backstage arguments, lessons and, intriguingly, glimpses of the man beneath the material.”
David Benedict, The Observer
“Given time and space to breathe on the page, the lyrics seem fresher and more ingenious than ever, darker-hued than you might remember them, constructed with eminent facility.”
Suzy Klein, New Statesman