RIP Stephen Sondheim

I got into Sondheim late and before then, I was rather oblivious as to who the heck he even was or what was his material while it played in front of me!

If you grew up in the Midwest and had the Seventies version of cable TV, Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight” from A Funny Thing Happened to me at the Forum was probably drilled into your head via WGN’s ad for all the syndicate SitComs they carried. As aside, who ever thought Hogan’s Heroes was funny? I also saw the film version of his breakout musical during my Latin class at Strake Jesuit. At least it was more on topic than those terrible Steve Reeves Hercules flicks from Italy.

I became more aware of his work through my boyhood crush on Bernadette Peters. In the Eighties, Showtime had a presentation of his Sundays in the Park with George. I’m such a fan, I have her 1997 album of her singing just Sondheim’s material.

His material was so strong that even Tim Burton and Johnny Depp couldn’t ruin the film version of Sweeney Todd. Sure, Burton Goth’d it up but he didn’t turn into a standard train wreck…the story’s narrative was maintained instead disintegrating into a series of random events a la Mars Attacks or suddenly, somebody’s mom was a witch. Sadly, this didn’t turn into a merchandising opportunity for Hot Topic.

Lastly, I’m glad he had the chance to play himself on The Simpsons. The very talented and kind Michael Price wrote the episode plus had the lucky opportunity to meet him. Nell Scovell, another writer I admire shook his hand when she was a student. Mudita to all of you! It’s always a thrill when we meet our heroes and they rock.

Farewell Mr. Sondheim! Thank you for everything! You belong to the ages alongside the other greats: Cohen, Rodgers, Hammerstein, Gilbert and Sullivan. Broadway better name something after you.

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