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Friday, September 29, 2023

Life + Arts

Famous lyricist visiting Houston on Sunday

Students can enjoy their fill of lovers, liars and clowns for everyone with discount tickets to ‘An Evening with Stephen Sondheim.’

Lyricist Stephen Sondheim will speak with New York Times columnist and drama critic Frank Rich at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in Jones Hall in a presentation by the Society for the Performing Arts. Before the conversation, the Katy Visual & Performing Arts Center’s Encore Players will perform several of Sondheim’s most beloved pieces at 7 p.m. on the piano level of the Jones Hall lobby.

The Society for the Performing Arts will offer University students $30 orchestra tickets, $20 mezzanine tickets and $10 balcony tickets, including fees.

Sondheim has written for professional musical theater for more than 50 years, boasting multiple Grammies, a Pulitzer Prize for drama for Sunday in the Park with George, seven Tony Awards and other honors in a career that created many of musical theater’s most memorable lyrics.

Theater-goers and movie buffs have heard the Broadway legend’s hilarious, if sometimes moody, lyrics and scores in classics such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Into the Woods and dozens of other musicals.

Sondheim is also renowned as a link to some of Broadway’s most influential names. For example, Sondheim was a childhood friend and mentor to The Sound of Music and Oklahoma! lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II.

Sondheim also collaborated in many famous theater productions with national treasures, such as when he wrote West Side Story’s memorable lyrics to the catchy tunes of famed composer-director Leonard Bernstein, with the choreography and direction of Jerome Robbins.

Vocal performance senior Molly Hanes said that Sondheim’s work is an integral part of any performer’s repertoire.

‘Stephen Sondheim carried on the musical theater torch left by Bernstein. He was definitely it. He was one of the greatest American musical theater composers that there was or will be,’ Hanes said, adding that it was unusual in American theater for a single person to write the lyrics and compose the score of a production.

The Society for the Performing Arts said in a press release that Sondheim will discuss many facets of his life, both professional and personal, in the unscripted conversation with Rich. The discussion will range from reminiscing about his mentor relationship with Hammerstein and collaborations with Bernstein and Robbins, to reflections on the influence of his predecessors and the evolution of modern American musical theater.

Sondheim will also reveal intimate details about the creative process that he undertakes as he writes lyrics and scores.

‘Sondheim, he is right on the gap of classical music. He’s right on the gap between opera and musical theater. Sondheim is often part of our repertoire as an opera major. You learn a couple of Sondheim songs because opera companies perform Sondheim all the time,’ Hanes said. ‘His musicals are always legitimate acting pieces. It’s not like you can get away with being cheesy or something like that. They’re very dramatically serious pieces. He’s one of my absolute favorite composers of all time.’

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