Sondheim on Sondheim

March 11, 2011
The great musical composer Stephen Sondheim, probably one of the greatest composers of our time, has a real flare for addressing whichever relationship situation you are in. Some many struggle with the different position they play on the team of love. If you are one of those happily single people there are many musical numbers that don’t deal with relationships and love that may appease you. This is the odd transition in Sondheim’s great musicals. Many of his songs address relationships, but many other songs are about going after dreams or getting through daily life or looking back at the past. If you are looking for a couple of rousing, tap your feet numbers, look no further than to numbers from West Side Story or A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Just try and stay away from the song, Somewhere from the musical West Side Story. The surprising sequence when one of the main characters, Tony, dies, can be a bit of a downer. Though many of Sondheim’s musicals deal with love, including these both, they also hold fun tempered tunes such as I Feel Pretty from West Side Story and Comedy Tonight from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, both not dealing with the hums and drums of being in a relationship. With Sondheim’s early works, you cannot avoid finding something that you can snap your fingers too and get rid yourself of the single gal or guy blues.
For some people, it is difficult being single. They feel as though having someone to fulfill them is the only way to live life. In the musical Company, Sondheim’s first concept musical, Bobby, a 30 something bachelor, is dating three woman. He ponders the thought of marriage, commitment and falling out of love throughout the piece. In the final song, Being Alive, Bobby realizes that though being single is makes him free and spontaneous, he is at a time in his life where he needs fulfillment through another individual. “Someone to need you too much. Someone to know you too well, someone to pull you up short and put you through hell. And give you support for being alive.” Though a bit profound for a simple high school romance, it goes to show you that the support of a loving individual can improve your sense of self and life.
For the cherry on top, Sondheim has written numerous songs about the experience of love and the yearn to be with your partner. The prime example of the yearning to be with the person you love comes from an unlikely musical called Passion. The song Loving You explains the dilemma of loving someone with your whole heart and them not realizing it. Looking at any Sondheim musical you can find Sondheim’s inner monologue about his thoughts on love, relationships and the lack thereof. Many composers dabbled in this advice column style of composition, where Sondheim took the bull by the horns. To make your day a success, no matter what situation you are in, buy some show tunes, wear some sequins and admit that Sondheim is the greatest composer that ever lived.

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