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The Legacy Of Stephen Sondheim And The American Musical Theatre

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Stephen Sondheim was born in New York on March 22, 1930. His mother was a fashion designer, and his father a dress manufacturer. At age ten, Sondheim’s parents divorced, and he moved to rural Pennsylvania with his mother shortly after (“Stephen Sondheim- Academy of Achievement”). In Pennsylvania, Stephen befriended his neighbor, James Hammerstein, as well as James’ parents Dorothy and Oscar. The Hammersteins would become like a second family to Stephen. He especially admired Oscar, a musical theatre giant, saying of the man, “I wanted to be whatever Oscar was… if Oscar had been a geologist, I would have become one too” (“The World of the Play: Stephen Sondheim”). Sondheim, mentored by Hammerstein, went on to study music and, eventually, became one of the most distinguished composers in musical theatre (“The World”). Stephen Sondheim’s writing redefined American musical theatre and inspired creativity among others in his field. He has worked on some of the most iconic modern musicals and continues to make meaningful contributions to the world of musical theatre (Miranda). Sondheim began his professional career on Broadway writing lyrics for Jerome Robbins’ and Leonard Bernstein’s 1957…show more content…
The risk taking and ingenuity Sondheim brought to the art of the musical gave others permission to experiment with non-traditional plot structures, more serious topics, the use of ambiguity, or anything else they could think of in musical format. One writer in particular, Jonathan Larson, was influenced by Sondheim. Larson was personally mentored by Sondheim, and Larson’s hit musical Rent, which featured a group of poor, AIDS stricken artists, may have never been possible if Sondheim had not brought similar, grave topics to the Broadway stage first. The same can be said for many more recent musicals, such as Wicked, Parade, and The Last Five Years (“The
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