Happy Birthday to Broadway Composers Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Today, Broadway fans everywhere celebrate the birthdays of two of the most celebrated composers of our generation: Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. They are the masterminds behind some of the most popular shows of the musical theatre world, and each have captivated us with memorable tunes that have bridged the gap into mainstream pop culture. If you are like me, you can hum along to just about every song that these two have written. Here is a look at the careers of these two famous composers, as well as what we can expect from them in the future.

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim is eighty-three years old today. He has won countless awards for his musical compositions, including an Academy Award and several Tony Awards. He is known for having written the music for musicals such as Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies and A Little Night Music. His musicals are known for their quick music and complicated lyric sets. Speaking from experience, it takes quite a while to memorize the many verses of the songs from Into the Woods. His work spans decades, and his productions are often performed at regional and national levels across the world.

What I love most about Sondheim’s work is that he never holds back. His songs are extremely complex – verses are seldom repeated in their entirety. Many songs are sung with very little time to breathe, and so prove to be challenging for many performers early in their careers. I have attempted on several occasions to sing “By the Sea” from Sweeney Todd, and have found myself heaving for breath by the end.

The stories are also a big selling point with many of his shows. They are unique and filled with twists and turns. The first Sondheim show I saw was Into the Woods, and I was immediately drawn to the way that he put a spin on classic fairy tales. His shows aren’t always appropriate for younger audiences – several shows involve graphic content, violence, and sexual references. Sondheim’s musicals will live in Broadway history for years to come.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber turned sixty-five today. Like Sondheim, he has also won many awards for his compositions, and his music is often referenced in popular culture. His most famous musicals include Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His shows are often adaptations of books, biblical stories and even historical periods. They are full of show-stopping numbers that you will find yourself humming even as you leave the show. Phantom of the Opera and Cats have both held the record of longest running show on Broadway at some point since their debuts, and Phantom has recently celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary on Broadway earlier this year.

In contrast to Sondheim, the reason I love Webber’s music so much is because it is so simple and catchy. Though many of his musicals are almost entirely sung, they are more easily memorized and appeal to children because of this. I often walk around singing the choruses to “Go, Go Joseph” and “Buenos Aires.” The first show I ever performed in was Joseph, and I can still recite the famous colors of the coat at a moment’s notice. They are just that catchy!

I love that each show that Webber writes for is incredibly different from the next in that they each evoke a varying array of emotions, and span over many different musical genres. His brilliance truly shines in shows such as Cats, where the audience becomes so invested in the characters that they leave with tears in their eyes, but a smile on their faces. Every song plays a key part in advancing the story, and by the time the musical is over, you are left wondering what happens next. Andrew Lloyd Webber is truly one of Broadway’s greatest composers.

I am sure I am not alone in wishing both Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber a very happy birthday. Here’s to hoping we see much more from these two in the near future.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.