Stephen Sondheim and I were born 65 years apart. But somehow I feel like I was supposed to be born on this day. My mom was in labour for a long time before I eventually entered the world at almost nine o’clock in the morning one fateful Wednesday; I could’ve been born earlier. But I wasn’t. And now I share a birthday with the greatest musical composter of all time. And Andrew Lloyd Webber.
I kid, L-Webs. You alright. But you don’t have an annual cabaret show named after you (yes, Sondheimas happens every March 21 – a Broadway Christmas Eve of shorts). And you don’t have a theatre named after you (yet, likely), a very rare occurrence for someone still living.
It’s amazing to me that Sondheim has had such a successful career – from West Side Story to Gypsy to Into the Woods to Sweeney Todd to Company to Sunday in the Park with George – I could go on. Composers can have bursts of creativity and then disappear into the abyss, but Sondheim has been working since the ’50s – a career lasting over half a century, and he continues to mentor other composers (like a certain someone who made a certain founding father musical).
I’m going to write a book soon, and I’ve decided to call it Son of Sondheim because my main
character was raised in the theatre world. I feel like everyone in this community feels like they’re the son or daughter of Sondheim because that’s how we learn about theatre. I’m reading Finishing the Hat, his collected lyrics, to gain inspiration before starting to write. I’m visiting Chicago in May and I’ll see the infamous George Seurat painting that inspired Sondheim over thirty years ago.
I can’t listen to pop music very much anymore since I started listening to showtunes, mostly because the rhymes and songwriting is just awful. Sondheim is to blame for that – “while her withers wither with her”? Are you kidding me? Stop ruining other songs for me with your incredible song structure and intricate rhymes. I can only hope that by listening to these works nonstop until my book is published, some of his hard work (and, I don’t want to say “genius,” but you know) rubs off on me too.
Happy 86th birthday, Mr. Sondheim. Let’s enjoy our cake tonight.
Edit: I also share a birthday with John Kander of Kander & Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret, The Scottsboro Boys). If this isn’t destiny, I don’t know what is.