moirakryan, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by moirakryan)
I'm not super into Sondheim, or even musicals in particular. But this guy makes you SO INTERESTED! Great voice, great storyteller, great little particular insights, great ability to bitch. If you are into Sondheim, or musicals, you will love this. If you aren't... you will probably love it anyway.
Stephen Sondheim will probably forever be regarded as the finest lyricist the musical stage has known - with apologies to librettist W. S. Gilbert or Gilbert and Sullivan fame. He has always taken on stories that encourage - no, force - the audience to relate to his ideas, whether that be in the early stages of his career with the magnum opus West Side Story or with the subsequent Gypsy!, Pacific Overtures, Follies, Sundays in the Park with George, Company, Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, etc. But while most everyone knows the lyrics to his large number of hits, few of us know the secrets or gossip or the lyricists real feelings about each of his ventures - until now.
This book is a very well written compendium of the lyrics (in every phase of their being), notes, ideas, misjudgments, and personal responses to the shows and the people involved with them. Sondheim is brilliant, not only at what he has done for a living, but also as a thinker and philosopher and pundit. Reading this book, as opposed to scanning this book, opens windows of insight into the career and the personality of one of America's treasures. There is so much to enjoy about this book that it will take several readings to absorb it all. It is a welcome addition to the libraries of all those who care about the stage musicals that are one of the few 'unique offerings' of this country to the world of music. Grady Harp, December 10
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Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
0 stars -
Knopf Publishing Group -
by Phyllis Newman,
"Finishing the Hat is a show stopper! If you love Stephen Sondheim, hate him, or never even heard of him, you'll still have a great ride — so take it! This book is filled with humor, controversy, stories about talented and glamorous people and, above all, life. And his lyrics! Everything you've ever wanted to know — about anything — is in those lyrics."
by Michael Feinstein,
"There is so much to be learned and appreciated from Finishing the Hat. It's filled with fascinating, entertaining, unique and compelling lessons from a man who encompasses the essence of what is truly great about American Musical Theatre."
by Alan & Marilyn Bergman,
"Just as Stephen Sondheim is, without dispute, THE master lyricist for the theater of our generation (not to mention his superb music!), he now has written THE book on the art and craft of lyric writing. It is a book that will enrich and entertain anyone with an interest in music and theater, either as a life’s work or a life’s pleasure. It is like no other writing on the subject. It is Sondheim."
by Joanna Gleason,
"Seeing my first Sondheim musical, Follies, I was like the farm girl brought to the Homes of Tomorrow exhibit; breathless, nose pressed to the glass. This book takes the glass away. It's a thrill to experience these shows again with Steve as your guide. What a gift to the theatre this book is! For actors, it's a must. For lyricists, it a primer."
In Hat Box, Stephen Sondheim presents his complete collected lyrics from the acclaimed Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat. This box set includes lyrics from Sondheim’s most popular shows like West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods, richly annotated with anecdotes, pointed observations, and invaluable advice from one of the greatest songwriters of our time. This handsomely designed package is essential reading for any fan of the theater or this living legend’s work.
Stephen Sondheim has won seven Tonys, an Academy Award, seven Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize and the Kennedy Center Honors. His career has spanned more than half a century, his lyrics have become synonymous with musical theater and popular culture, and in Finishing the Hat—titled after perhaps his most autobiographical song, from Sunday in the Park with George—Sondheim has not only collected his lyrics for the first time, he is giving readers a rare personal look into his life as well as his remarkable productions.
Along with the lyrics for all of his musicals from 1954 to 1981—including West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd—Sondheim treats us to never-before-published songs from each show, songs that were cut or discarded before seeing the light of day. He discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with extraordinary talents such as Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Ethel Merman, Richard Rodgers, Angela Lansbury, Harold Prince and a panoply of others. The anecdotes—filled with history, pointed observations and intimate details—transport us back to a time when theater was a major pillar of American culture. Best of all, Sondheim appraises his work and dissects his lyrics, as well as those of others, offering unparalleled insights into songwriting that will be studied by fans and aspiring songwriters for years to come.
Accompanying Sondheims sparkling writing are behind-the-scenes photographs from each production, along with handwritten music and lyrics from the songwriters personal collection.
Penetrating and surprising, poignant, funny and sometimes provocative, Finishing the Hat is not only an informative look at the art and craft of lyric writing, it is a history of the theater that belongs on the same literary shelf as Moss Harts Act One and Arthur Millers Timebends. It is also a book that will leave you humming the final bars of Merrily We Roll Along, while eagerly anticipating the next volume, which begins with the opening lines of Sunday in the Park with George.
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