Program Details

Stephen Sondheim:  The Art of Making Art (Part I)

Sheryl Flatow
Video Catch-up

Course Description

Throughout his career, Stephen Sondheim explored and expanded the scope of musical theater with great passion, wit, insight, and delicious wordplay and became the most celebrated and influential composer/lyricist of the last half of the 20th century. It’s not just that he experimented with form and/or subject matter in groundbreaking musicals; it’s that he expressed deeper and more profound thoughts than any musical theater artist before him. He said his approach to a song was to “inhabit the character the way I think an actor does.” He frequently wrote about longing and, especially, ambivalence – his “favorite thing to write about” – and didn’t promise happy endings. He was both a romantic and a realist. This survey of Sondheim’s singular career is presented in two parts: Part I focuses primarily on his earlier musicals. Part II, offered in the winter, examines five of his shows over four weeks.


  1. The Lyricist: “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” and “Do I Hear a Waltz?” Sondheim’s collaborations with (in order) composers Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, and Richard Rodgers.
  2. A Sondheim Sampler: Songs from a variety of shows, as well as the made for TV musical “Evening Primrose” and the film “Dick Tracy.”
  3. "Company"
  4. "Follies"

About the Instructor

  • Sheryl Flatow has written about theater and dance for more than 35 years. She curated major exhibitions in San Francisco on Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, George Balanchine, and others. She has also conducted public interviews with leading figures in the arts, including James Lapine, Patti LuPone, Sheldon Harnick, Natalia Makarova, and Estelle Parsons. In addition, Flatow wrote the CD liner notes for "Into the Woods" and "Jerome Robbins' Broadway."