Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Phyllis Newman
"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." Michael Feinstein
"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." Alan & Marilyn Bergman
"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." Joanna Gleason
The winner of seven Tonys, seven Grammys, an Oscar, and a Pulitzer Prize, Stephen Sondheim has become synonymous with the best in musical theater. Now, in Finishing the Hat,
he has not only collected his lyrics for the first time, he’s given readers a rare, personal look into his extraordinary shows and life.
Along with the lyrics for all of his productions from 1954 to 1981 -- including West Side Story, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, and Sweeney Todd -- Sondheim discusses his relationship with his mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II, and his collaborations with legends Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Ethel Merman, Richard Rodgers, Angela Lansbury, Hal Prince, and countless others. The anecdotes -- rich with history, personal insights, and intimate details -- transport us back to a time when theater was a major pillar of American culture. And throughout the book, Sondheim analyzes 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.
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.
About the Author
Stephen Sondheim has written award-winning music and lyrics for theater, 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.
Table of Contents
Note to the Reader
Cast of Characters
Rhyme and Its Reasons
1. Saturday Night
2. West Side Story
4. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
5. Anyone Can Whistle
6. Do I Hear a Waltz?
9. A Little Night Music
10. The Frogs
11. Pacific Overtures
12. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
13. Merrily We Roll Along
Appendix: Original Broadway Productions
Index of Songs