On January 4, I’m pleased to host Being Alive: WFMT Remembers Stephen Sondheim. In tribute to the singular composer and lyricist, who died November 26, 2021, you’ll hear music spanning six decades, from Saturday Night to Bounce (which later became Road Show, his final completed score). His truly great music and lyrics came in between those bookends, in shows such as Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, and so many others sampled in the WFMT special.
The 13 tracks in the special can only begin to capture the range of Sondheim’s catalogue. So, for the WFMT website, I’d like to share 10 bonus tracks, although they too are 10 among hundreds of candidates. Labels really don’t work with Sondheim. I love his tunes in the film Dick Tracy for one reason (pastiche plus wit, and a sneaky romantic ache) and “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George for quite another (it’s a stirring musical confession of a painstaking artist, dramatizing a fellow painstaking artist, Georges Seurat). These online extras run the gamut from the spitfire verbal panic of “Getting Married Today” from Company, to the plaintively mysterious “I Remember” from Sondheim’s little-known score for the 1966 TV special Evening Primrose.
Like the Being Alive special, these, I hope, suggest at least something of Sondheim’s breadth and his unique position in the history of American musical theater. With one foot in the Golden Age and the other in what came next, thanks in no small part to Sondheim himself, the musical artist had so much to say about love, loss, the passing of time, the itch of creative yearning — and the riddles and joys of simply being alive.
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Michael Phillips hosts the special Being Alive: WFMT Remembers Stephen Sondheim on January 4, 2022 at 8:00 pm. Let us know your favorite Sondheim songs in the comment section below!