Introducing the Sondheim bibliography! Want to learn more on Sondheim? This section will be regularly updated with new reviews and summaries from the wealth of books about Sondheim, his works and his partners.
Reviews written by Andrew Milner.
Finishing the Hat (2010, Knopf)
The first volume of this long-awaited two book set collects Sondheim’s lyrics from Saturday Night (1954) to Merrily We Roll Along (1981). Sondheim spells out his three cardinal rules of lyric-writing: “Content dictates form,” “Less is more” and “God is in the details.” He also provides remarkably clear-eyed critiques of his lyrics, plus outspoken assessments of his favorite theater lyricists (Berlin, Loesser, Porter, Harburg) and least favorite (W.S. Gilbert, Lerner, Hart), explaining why DuBose Heyward’s lyrics for Porgy and Bess are superior to Ira Gershwin’s. There are tantalizing photos of his handwritten lyric sheets, as the reader can watch “Rose’s Turn” and “Comedy Tonight” gradually take shape, and rare pictures from each show. And his career recollections might be the closest we will ever get to a Sondheim memoir.
Look, I Made a Hat (2011, Knopf)
Volume 2 features Sondheim’s lyrics from Sunday in the Park with George (1984) to Road Show (2008) plus work from TV (1966’s Evening Primrose), movies (Dick Tracy) various productions of Candide, Williams College musicals, birthday songs for friends and lyrics from aborted projects. Of particular interest are Sondheim’s set of lyrics (and commentary) from four incarnations of what became Road Show (2008); it is astonishing to see how, even at this late stage in his career, Sondheim was willing to rewrite this work from the ground up so many times. In lieu of lengthier discussions of Broadway lyricists, Sondheim offers his opinion of critics, theatrical awards and the pros and cons of revivals.