Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Finishing the Hat

Finishing the Hat by Stephen Sondheim
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
421 pages
Non-fiction; Musical
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

While Stephen Sondheim is one of my favorite composers and lyricists (Gypsy, Assassins, and A Little Night Music being among my favorite musicals), I wasn't originally interested in this book as I thought it was just a collection of Sondheim's lyrics. Interesting as I find the writing, I can read all of the lyrics online or just listen to the songs as I have recordings for all.

Then I found out that Sondheim also included notes about the writing of the shows and about specific lyrics, which sounded very interesting. Another bonus was the pictures of the cast and of Sondheim's handwritten lyrics although they're in black and white so you don't get to see the colorful clothes and hair styles of the cast.

The book covers roughly the first half of Sondheim's career, from 1954-1981. The shows included are Saturday Night, West Side Story*, Gypsy*, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Anyone Can Whistle, Do I Hear a Waltz?*, Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, The Frogs, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and Merrily We Roll Along (asterisks denote shows where Sondheim wrote the lyrics only). This includes some great shows but I remain more interested in the shows that will appear in the second collection (specifically Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Assassins).

This is a great collection for ANYONE interested in musical theater or songwriting as Sondheim does not just discuss his career but also lyric-writing (and creating a show in general) and evaluates other lyricists, such as Lorenz Hart and E.Y. Harburg. I hope that will be continued in the second collection as well.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love anything that has to do with music, so I love the sound of this book! My family is THAT kind of family -- the one that puts us kids in twenty different lessons when we're younger so we're well-rounded when we're older -- and music is honestly one of my favourite things that we've done! <3 And I love that this book is more than just a bunch of music, but notes about the music too! I had no clue! :)

    This was such an awesome review, B! It makes me really intrigued to pick this book up! :)


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