A Timeline of Sondheim's Life and Work
Born in New York on March 22, 1930 to Janet (known as Foxy) Fox and Herbert Sondheim
Began piano lessons in 1937
His parents divorced and he and his mother, Foxy, moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Oscar Hammerstein II and his family were their neighbors. Hammerstein would become Sondheim’s mentor
Studied at the George School in Pennsylvania, where he and his friends wrote the musical By George (1945)
Went to Williams College in Massachusetts where he was a music major and received the Hutchinson Prize for Composition in 1950 upon graduating. At Williams his musicals Phinney’s Rainbow (1948) and All That Glitters (1949) were produced
1948 – 1951
Began his apprenticeship with Oscar Hammerstein II in 1948. Prompted by Hammerstein to write an adaptation of a play he liked, a play he didn’t, a novel or short story, and to create an original piece, Sondheim wrote All That Glitters, High Tor, Mary Poppins and Climb High.
After graduating from Williams, he studied music theory and composition with avant-garde composer Milton Babbitt, the first American composer to write electronic synthesized music.
Wrote songs for the play I Know My Love by S.N. Behrman
1953 – 1954
Wrote 11 episodes for the first season of the television series Topper with George Oppenheimer
Wrote music and lyrics for Saturday Night with book by Julius J Epstein and Philip G. Epstein, based on their play Front Porch in Flatbush
The Broadway production fell through when the producer, Lemuel Ayers, passes away
Wrote songs for the play A Might Man He Is by Arthur Kober and George Oppenheimer
Wrote the song “Girls of Summer” for N. Richard Nash’s play The Girls of Summer
Sondheim was chosen to write the lyrics by composer Leonard Bernstein for the musical West Side Story, which opened on Broadway on September 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre. This was Sondheim’s first Broadway musical and first collaboration with book writer Arthur Laurents and director/choreographer Jerome Robbins
Closed on June 27, 1959, after 732 performances
Famously convinced by Hammerstein to write the lyrics to Gypsy to gain experience writing for star Ethel Merman, Gypsy opened on Broadway on May 21, 1959 at The Broadway Theatre with music by Jule Styne, book by Arthur Laurents, and direction by Jerome Robbins
Transferred to the Imperial Theatre, and closed on March 25, 1961 after 702 performances and two previews
Wrote incidental music for Arthur Laurents’ play Invitation To A March
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened on Broadway on May 8, 1962, at the Alvin Theatre. This was the first Sondheim musical to open on Broadway where he wrote both music and lyrics, with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. The production was directed by George Abbott and starred Zero Mostel
The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical
The show was transferred to the Mark Hellinger Theatre and the Majestic Theatre, where it closed on August 29, 1964, after 964 performances and 8 previews
Wrote the “Passionella” segment of The World of Jules Feiffer, based on the work of the revered cartoonist
Wrote additional music and lyrics for the musical Hot Spot by Mary Rodgers (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics), and Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert (book)
Anyone Can Whistle opened at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway on April 4, 1964. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics, with a book by frequent collaborator Arthur Laurents and featuring the stage musical debut of Angela Lansbury. The show closed after a run of 12 previews and 9 performances
Wrote the lyrics for Do I Hear A Waltz with music by Richard Rodgers, based on the play The Time of the Cuckoo by Arthur Laurents
Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for the musical episode “Evening Primrose” for the first season of ABC Stage 67
Wrote additional music and lyrics for The Mad Show, by Mary Rodgers (music), Martin Charnin (lyrics), and Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert (book)
1968 – 1969
Made crosswords for New York Magazine in its first year of publication
Company opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on April 26, 1970. Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics in his first collaboration with book writer George Furth and director Hal Prince
Nominated for a record-breaking 14 Tony Awards in 1971, winning 6 including Best Musical and Best Score, won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding/Best Musical and won the Grammy for Best Score From an Original Cast Show Album
Company closed on January 1, 1972 after 705 performances and 12 previews
Follies opened April 4, 1971 at the Winter Garden Theatre. Music and lyrics by Sondheim and with a book by James Goldman. Hal Prince and Michael Bennett co-directed with Bennett providing choreography
Nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 1972, winning seven including for Best Score in 1972, won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding /Best Musical
The show closed on July 1, 1972 after 522 performances and 12 previews
Following his collaborations with George Furth, Sondheim was asked to write incidental music for Furth’s play, Twigs, directed by Michael Bennett. Carol Burnett later starred in the 1975 television adaptation of the play
His first collaboration with book writer Hugh Wheeler, A Little Night Music opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre on February 25, 1973. The production was directed by Hal Prince with music and lyrics by Sondheim
Nominated for 12 Tony Awards in 1973, winning 6 including Best Score, won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding /Best Musical
Moved to the Majestic Theatre in September, and closed there on August 3, 1974 after 601 performances and 12 previews.
Provided additional lyrics to the operetta Candide, with music by Leonard Bernstein, and book by Lillian Hellman and Hugh Wheeler. Other lyricists included Richard Wilbur (primary lyricist), John Latouche, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, and Bernstein himself.
Co-authored the whodunnit mystery film The Last of Sheila with Anthony Perkins, the actor who portrayed Norman Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho
In another collaboration with Arthur Laurents, Sondheim wrote incidental music for his play The Enclave
Acted in Great Performances’ televised production of June Moon, a play by George S. Kaufman and Ring Lardner.
Wrote The Frogs with a book by his Forum collaborator Burt Shevelove for Yale Repertory Theatre. Originally performed in the Yale swimming pool on May 20, 1974, with ensemble members Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver
Wrote the film score to Stavisky, a French biographical drama about the life of financier and embezzler Alexandre Stavisky.
Pacific Overtures opened on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on January 11, 1976. Music and lyrics by Sondheim, book by John Weidman and direction by Hal Prince. Won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding/Best Musical.
Closed on June 27, 1976 after 193 performances.
The first musical revue featuring Sondheim’s work, Side By Side By Sondheim, opened on Broadway in a production produced by Hal Prince. One of the few shows in Broadway history to have its entire cast nominated for a Tony Award.
Won Grammy Award for Song of the Year for Judy Collins’ cover of “Send in the Clowns”
Wrote songs for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution a British-American mystery film written by Nicholas Meyer and starring Robert Duvall and Laurence Olivier.
Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway at the Uris Theatre on March 1, 1979. Music and lyrics by Sondheim and another collaboration with book writer Hugh Wheeler and director Hal Prince
Sweeney Todd was nominated for nine Tony Awards in 1979 and won eight, including Best Score. It also won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding/Best Musical
Closed on June 29, 1980 after 557 performances and 19 previews
Wrote additional material for the Madwoman Of Central Park West, a collaboration between Arthur Laurents and actress Phyllis Newman
Merrily We Roll Along opened on Broadway on November 16, 1981 at the Alvin Theatre. Music and lyrics by Sondheim, directed by Hal Prince and book by George Furth. This was Sondheim’s final collaboration with Hal Prince for over twenty years.
Nominated for Best Original Score at the 1982 Tonys, and won the Drama Desk for Outstanding Lyrics
Closed after 16 performances and 52 previews
The anthology musical Marry Me A Little opened Off-Broadway on March 12, 1981, an idea conceived by Craig Lucas and Norman René. The musical revue featured various cut songs from Sondheim musicals and from his, at that time unproduced, first musical Saturday Night
Along with fellow composer Dave Grusin, Sondheim wrote the film score for Reds, starring Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty, who also directed the film.
On March 3, 1983, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, another Sondheim anthology revue, played for two performances under the original title A Stephen Sondheim Evening, later renamed as a licensed revue. Performers included George Hearn, Liz Callaway, and Angela Lansbury
Sunday in the Park with George opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on May 2, 1984. Music and lyrics by Sondheim and his first collaboration with writer and director James Lapine
Nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning two for design. Sunday in the Park with George was the first Broadway show to use projection mapping design. Won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding /Best Musical and the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with James Lapine. Sunday in the Park with George is only one of ten musicals to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Closed on October 13, 1985 after 604 performances and 35 previews
Into the Woods opened on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on November 5, 1987. Music and lyrics by Sondheim, directed and written by James Lapine
Nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1988, and won Best Score, Best Book, and Best Actress for Joanna Gleason (Baker’s Wife). The cast recording also won a Grammy Award.
Closed on September 3, 1989 after 765 performances
Wrote songs for Dick Tracy, another film directed by and starring Warren Beatty. The following year, the song “Sooner or Later” by Sondheim and sung by Madonna won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Assassins opened Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on December 18, 1990. Music and lyrics by Sondheim, book by John Weidman.
Closed on February 16, 1991 after 73 performances
Signature Theatre produced its first Sondheim production, Sweeney Todd at Gunston Middle School. August 27 – September 21, 1991
Signature Theatre produced the first regional production of Assassins. August 20 – October 3, 1992
Sondheim received the Kennedy Center Honor, alongside Arthur Mitchell, Johnny Carson, Georg Solti, and Marion Williams
Signature Theatre production of Company October 19 – November 27, 1993
Passion opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on May 9, 1994. Music and lyrics by Sondheim, another production written and directed by James Lapine with orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick
Won Tony for Best Score in 1994, the shortest running musical to ever to win that award, and won the New York Drama Circle award for Outstanding/Best Musical
Closed on January 7, 1995 after 280 performances
Signature Theatre production of Into the Woods August 28 – October 23, 1994
George Furth and Sondheim co-write the play Getting Away with Murder, a comedy-thriller, directed by Jack O’Brien
Signature Theatre production of Passion April 23 – June 30, 1996
Sondheim awarded the National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts
Signature Theatre production of Sunday in the Park with George April 12 – June 15, 1997 (co-production with Arena Stage)
1997 – 1999
Sondheim’s first musical, Saturday Night had its world premiere in London in 1997 and opened on Broadway in 1999. The production featured updated orchestrations by Jonathan Tunick.
Signature Theatre production of A Stephen Sondheim Evening – The Music and Lyrics of Stephen Sondheim May 26 – July 5, 1998
Signature Theatre production of A Little Night Music August 18 – October 4, 1998
Signature Theatre’s second production of Sweeney Todd September 7 – November 13, 1999
Signature Theatre production of Gypsy January 9 – February 25, 2001
Signature Theatre production of Putting it Together May 22 – July 8, 2001
Moving On, a musical revue of Sondheim’s work conceived by David Kernan, ran in London and then at the Laguna Playhouse in California the following year.
Signature Theatre production of Follies April 1 – June 1, 2003
Bounce opened on June 20, 2003 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. Music and lyrics by Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince, their first collaboration since Merrily We Roll Along. The show later became Road Show in 2008
Sondheim made a cameo appearance in the “theatre kid” cult classic film Camp, in which a teenage Anna Kendrick sings “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Signature Theatre production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum October 28 – December 14, 2003
Signature Theatre production of Pacific Overtures May 17 – July 3, 2005
Signature Theatre’s second production of Assassins May 30 – July 30, 2006
Sondheim writes music for a new production of King Lear at the Public Theater, directed by James Lapine
Signature Theatre’s second production of Into the Woods January 11 – February 25, 2007
Signature Theatre production of Merrily We Roll Along September 4 – October 14, 2007
Awarded a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Signature Theatre production of Anyone Can Whistle, a benefit concert October 6, 2008
Signature Theatre’s third production of Sweeney Todd February 9 – April 4, 2010
In celebration of his 80th birthday, the Sondheim On Sondheim musical revue, featuring taped interviews with Sondheim and directed by James Lapine, opened on Broadway for a limited engagement
October – Finishing the Hat was published, his first volume of his collected and annotated lyrics
First Sondheim Award by Signature Theatre, presented to Angela Lansbury
Signature Theatre production of Side by Side by Sondheim April 26 – June 12, 2011
Signature Theatre’s concert production of Saturday Night October 29–30, 2011
Second volume of annotated lyrics Look, I Made a Hat was published
Signature Theatre’s second production of Company May 21 – June 30, 2013
Signature Theatre’s second production of Gypsy December 17, 2013 – January 26, 2014
Signature Theatre’s second production of Sunday in the Park with George August 5 – September 21, 2014
Signature Theatre production of Simply Sondheim April 2–19, 2015
Signature Theatre production of West Side Story December 8, 2015 – January 31, 2016
Signature Theatre production of Road Show February 16 – March 13, 2016
Signature Theatre’s second production of A Little Night Music August 15 – October 15, 2017
Married Jeff Romley in a small private ceremony
Signature Theatre’s second production of Passion August 14 – September 23, 2018
Signature Theatre’s third production of Assassins August 11 – September 29, 2019
Signature Theatre’s filmed production of Simply Sondheim February 2 – April 16, 2021
Sondheim died suddenly on the morning of Friday, November 26 2021 at the age of 91 at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut