Six by Sondheim (2013) Movie Script

I like neurotic people.
I'm neurotic myself and I like neurotic people--
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: Everyone is, aren't they, to a degree?
Well, that's exactly what I think.
You see, I think it's universal.
Neurotic is one of those fashionable words
that to some people means crazy.
What it means is that everybody is troubled.
Everybody has problems,
and there are problems of circumstance,
and there are problems that start
when you're young and you're growing up
and there are professional problems
and there are personal problems.
Nobody goes through life unscathed,
and I think if you write about those things,
you're going to touch people.
SONDHEIM: When I get famous
I'll be free on my own
You wait and see...
EARL WRIGHTSON: While no one can predict the future
of the theater, the American musical theater,
one thing is very certain.
Talented men, such
as our guest today, are going
to be making very important
changes from time to time.
Mr. Stephen Sondheim.
Ladies and gentlemen,
welcome Stephen Sondheim.
LARRY KING: Someone who's made
the musical what it is today--
Stephen Sondheim.
welcome Stephen Sondheim!
Here is Stephen Sondheim.
called the father
of the modern American musical.
He earned the title
by experimenting
with form and content.
He earned it by asking audiences
not to sit back and relax,
but to sit up and take notice.
DIANE SAWYER: Not that Sondheim
suits everyone's taste--
If you don't know the name
Stephen Sondheim,
you know his words and music.
WOMAN: And the Tony Award
goes to...
MAN: Music and lyrics,
Stephen Sondheim.
Woman, take my view...
WOMAN: Stephen Sondheim.
MAN: ..."Sweeney Todd."
I'm telling you...
and gentlemen, Stephen Sondheim.
...make your dream true
I mean, an awful lot of people
have gone historically
to musicals to forget
their troubles,
"Come on, get happy."
I'm not interested in that.
I'm not interested
in making people unhappy,
but I'm not interested
in not looking at life,
'cause then I don't know why
I want to write it
SONDHEIM: I have no idea
where the music came from.
My father used
to pick out tunes,
Broadway tunes on the piano.
And when I was a kid, he
would put my hand on his fingers
so I would sort of feel
like I was playing the piano.
And then I took piano lessons
when I was 7 years old, which is
what every nice Jewish boy did
on the west side, for two years.
And my mother was very visual,
and she was a very talented
designer, and I have no visual talent whatsoever,
so there goes
the entire theory of genes.
The Stephen and the Joshua
were chosen
by my parents out of the Bible.
They didn't know what
to name me,
so they just flipped
the pages open
and put their fingers in
and it came out Stephen Joshua.
In fact, I was known as Josh
until I was about
10 or 11 years old.
I always thought I
was born at 3:30 in the morning
'cause my mother told me that.
She wanted me to feel that
I had kept her awake
and made the birth
as difficult as possible.
I found out from my father I was
born at 9:00 in the evening
and it was not
a difficult birth at all.
That disagreement was
sort of typical of them
and ended in a divorce
10 years after I was born.
My mother got custody of me
and bought a house
in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
There was a kind of myth
that if your family broke up,
what you needed was discipline,
so you were sent
to military school.
Again, the surpri--
Did you need discipline?
I don't think so,
but I loved it.
Everything was so chaotic
at home, that to be told
to be at a certain place
at 9:12
and another place at 9:37
and to have to go on parade
and that sort of thing--
again, I was 10,
11 years old;
we had little
wooden rifles--
but it was called
New York Military Academy.
And I thrived.
I thought it was terrific.
My father was
a dress manufacturer,
and he was certainly
the most liked man
in the industry, but not
the most successful.
And they go together,
I think.
His second marriage
was very successful.
He married a very nice lady,
and so I liked my stepmother
and my father very much.
He loved the theater,
so when he had his visiting
privileges with me--
the court-appointed
visiting privileges,
he would take me
to musicals.
I was an only child,
and both my parents
were working parents,
so because I had no sort
of childhood companion,
and my mother was
a celebrity hunter--
she knew slightly
the Oscar Hammersteins,
and they lived
about 3 miles away.
So she sort of
foisted me on them
because they had a son
my own age--
actually a year younger,
Jimmy Hammerstein.
And as a result,
I sort of osmosed myself
into the Hammerstein
and Dorothy and Oscar
Hammerstein became
my surrogate parents
during my teen years,
and that's essentially
how I became a songwriter,
because I wanted to do
what Oscar did.
You know, I've often said
that if he'd been
an archaeologist,
I would have been
an archaeologist.
Maybe I wouldn't have had
the talent for archaeology,
and luckily he was
in a profession
that obviously
I have gifts for,
so it worked out
very nicely.
But it was essentially
imitating him.
I majored in music
at college,
and I always wanted
to write music and lyrics.
And the first show I wrote
that was scheduled
for production
was called "Saturday Night,"
but the producer died
and the show didn't get on.
And I was then asked
to do just the lyrics
for "West Side Story."
I was 25 years old
at the time.
I'd been writing music
up until then,
and I didn't want
to write just lyrics,
but Oscar said
that it would be
very good experience for me,
even though I would be
not writing music,
because I'd be dealing with
people with enormous talent
and ability--
that's Leonard Bernstein
and Jerry Robbins
and Arthur Laurents.
And I would learn
a great deal
practical experience,
and I should not worry
about the time lost
in not writing music,
and he was right.
Could be
Who knows?
There's somethin' due
any day
I will know right away
Soon as it shows
It may come cannonballin'
down through the sky
Gleam in its eye,
bright as a rose
Who knows?
SONDHEIM: Well, there's
the true nostalgia.
Lenny and I wrote
"Something's Coming"
essentially in one day,
which was one of
the most exciting days
of my life.
And we finished at about
11:00 in the evening
and we woke Felicia--
Mrs. Bernstein--up,
got her out of bed,
and played it for her,
and she sleepily said,
"It's wonderful,"
and went back to bed,
having not, I don't think,
heard the number,
poor thing.
But we had to share
the excitement,
and tonight I got it
all over again.
I mean, it's a song
I dearly love.
We wrote it
during rehearsals
because the boy playing
Tony, named Larry Kert,
wasn't registering
in his first scene
with the kind of weight
that made you want
to follow his adventures
through the show.
And I suggested that we
write a song
that has real drive
to it.
A paradigmatic one
would be...
Hallelujah, hallelujah
The kind of thing
that Judy Garland
made her
reputation from,
a driving,
fast-beat song.
GARLAND: The Lord is waitin'
to take your hand
Shout Hallelujah,
come on, get happy...
SONDHEIM: And that's
exactly what we did.
And Larry did it on
opening night in Washington
and stopped the show.
It's only just out of reach,
down the block...
He had the audience
in the palm of his hand,
and it gave him confidence.
It was his first
major musical.
Of all the people in
the cast, he had to be
the one to carry
that strength forward,
and that number gave him
that strength.
KERT: Could it be?
Yes, it could
Something's comin',
somethin' good
If I can wait
Something's comin'
I don't know what it is
But it is gonna be great
SONDHEIM: What surprised me
about it and still does is
all the baseball terminology
comes out of--you know,
"one-handed catch,"
all that sort of thing.
Somehow I got the image
of Tony as a ball player.
I don't mean specifically;
it's just the words kept--
those were the images
that occurred to me,
and they're the right
You know, "cannonballin'
down through the sky,"
all that stuff
about forward motion,
and I know what it was.
It was echoing Tony's desire
to move forward,
to get away
from his gang life,
and he knows there's
around the corner that's
gonna make his life perfect,
And you just--whoosh!--
and it's a baseball.
...Catch the moon,
one-handed catch
Around the corner
Or whistlin'
down the river
Come on, deliver
To me
Will it be?
Yes, it will
Maybe just by
holdin' still
It'll be there
Come on, somethin'
Come on in, don't be shy
Meet a guy,
pull up a chair
The air is hummin'
And somethin' great
is comin'
Who knows?
It's only
just out of reach
Down the block,
on a beach
Maybe tonight
MAN: Mr. Robbins,
how does it feel
now that the opening
night is over?
Well, we're all very tired
and also very happy.
The opening reviews
in Washington mentioned
everybody connected
with the show.
They were all raves,
except me.
I was obviously
disappointed and chagrined,
my first professional show.
And so, on the morning
after, I was riding
from the theater back
to the hotel with Lenny.
And he said, "Look,
the lyrics are yours.
I'm perfectly happy to take
my name off the lyrics."
And I said, "Oh, that's
really nice of you.
Thank you."
And he said,
"And, of course,
we'll adjust the royalties."
And I said, "Oh, who cares
about the money?
It's just the credit."
If somebody had only
put a gag in my mouth
at that point,
I would have made a lot more
money over the years.
But the fact is, we all
thought the show was
just gonna be sort of
a prestigious show.
Nobody dreamed that it
would be a hit
and, in fact,
it wasn't a hit.
The movie was a gigantic
hit. The show was not.
The show was disliked
by most people.
Score was particularly
particularly in the papers
and by the public,
all of whom said
they couldn't hum it.
It was all very exciting,
but they couldn't hum
Then, 4 years later--
there were
only two single records made
from "West Side Story"
in a period of 4 years:
one by Johnny Mathis
and one by Dinah Shore.
Johnny Mathis sang "Maria,"
Dinah Shore sang "Tonight"
and that was it because
everybody said, "Yes, it's
very exciting theatrically,
but you can't hum
those tunes."
And then the movie
came out and, of course,
the movie company put
a million dollars or so
or maybe more into
the advertising of the movie
and they started making
the disc jockeys--
or getting the disc jockeys
to play the tunes,
and suddenly everybody
could hum them,
which is why the word
"hummable" about songs
drives me up the wall.
BERNSTEIN: I expected,
after "West Side"
that a lot of new,
young people would come in
and take the next step
and the next step,
next step, and by now
we'd have had something
that we could call
the equivalent of opera,
American opera.
And we don't, with
the solitary exception
of Steve Sondheim,
who does take a step
with every show he does.
Well, now we're
leaving the music
of Mr. Bernstein
and going to
discuss Mr. Sondheim
as the composer,
not just
the lyricist.
From now on,
that's going to be
the set-up,
is it not?
Well, with the--
there's always possibly
an exception,
but I intend from now on
to write my own music
because it's about
3 times as much fun
as writing lyrics.
But there may always come
along something
that's just
so wildly exciting
that I can't keep
my hands off it.
Here she is, boys!
Here she is, world!
Here's Rose!
Curtain up
Light the lights
Play it, boys!
You either got it
Or you ain't
And, boys, I got it
I was supposed to do
music and lyrics
for "Gypsy,"
and David Merrick
and Leland Hayward,
who were producing it,
it's OK with them,
OK with Arthur Laurents,
and Ethel Merman
had just been burned
by two young writers;
that is to say, she had
had a flop and blamed it
on the inexperience, or
having two young writers--
a show called
"Happy Hunting."
So she was very wary
of taking a chance
on another one,
so she said no, and then
Arthur and Oscar--
again, Oscar said,
"It'll frustrate
you even more, but now
"you have a chance to write
for a specific personality,
and that's something
you should learn to do."
And he was right, that was
also very valuable
because we wrote that show
not for Madam Rose,
but for Ethel Merman
as Madam Rose
because she
and David Merrick came up
with the idea together to
buy Gypsy Rose Lee's book,
and so she came
with the package.
Usually I just write
and then we cast it,
but in this case,
we were writing
for a very specific lady
to take advantage
of her strengths and to
minimize her weaknesses.
And so it was
good experience.
but it unfortunately
taped me
as a lyric writer, which I
knew it would, so the minute
I started to write music,
I was treated by critics
and public and the old
pros--and still am--
as a sort of upstart:
"How dare I,"
"Why aren't I satisfied
just writing lyrics,"
and, "I can't write music,
so what"--you know.
If I'd started out
as a musician
and come to the lyrics,
they would have said
the same thing.
One of my favorite
Ethel Merman stories--
it's apocryphal,
it's been attributed
to other people, but I like
to believe it's true
of Ethel,
because it is profoundly
true of Ethel--
is the time that she went
on "The Loretta Young Show."
Loretta Young was a lady
with a capital "L"
who had a half-hour show,
she was Catholic,
and she did not like
swearing on her set.
And Ethel had the mouth
of a truck driver,
so when Ethel came in for
rehearsals, it wasn't long
before she said,
"Where's the damn prop?"
And Loretta came over
to her and said, "Ethel,
"I really don't approve
of swearing,
and anytime anybody
swears on my set,
I charge them a quarter."
So Ethel gave her a quarter,
and a few minutes later,
of course, Ethel was annoyed
at something else
and she said, "God damn it!"
And Loretta said,
"Ethel, a quarter, please."
Ethel dutifully
gave it again.
And a few minutes after
that, of course, Ethel said,
"For Christ's sake!"
And Loretta Young came over
and said, "Ethel--"
and before she could finish
the sentence, Ethel said,
"Loretta, here's 10 bucks
and go fuck yourself."
The songs I write
don't really reflect me
in any conscious way.
I mean, they all are
about the characters
that the book writer
has made,
and I'm getting
into those characters.
I never think of it
in my own terms at all, no.
I get to know the style,
the way they think,
the way they speak,
and I get inside them almost
as if I were an actor
playing the part,
and then I write.
But I always take
from the book writer.
I couldn't invent
those people.
Often what attracts me to
material in the first place
is that I find some way
of projecting myself.
Like all writing, you know,
there's no difference.
Part of the author is
always in what he writes
and part of it is
a work of imagination.
As soon as you write
obviously it must touch
on something.
It's that thing
that Faulkner said
about observation,
imagination, and experience.
You can do
without one of them,
but you can't do
without two,
and writers and actors
It's true that in every
character you write,
a part of you is
there somewhere.
That's true of every author,
but there's only been one
autobiographical song
I've ever written,
and that was "Opening Doors"
in "Merrily We Roll Along."
It's about two writers
trying to bust their way
into show business
and their best friend.
It's about me
and Hal Prince,
it's about Mary Rodgers,
and it's about
Sheldon Harnick,
it's about Jerry Bock,
it's about all of us
in the fifties, knocking
on the doors of producers
and trying to get heard.
I was trying to recapture
what I was like
when I was
25 and 30 years old.
The show goes backwards
in time and ends up
in the early sixties,
late fifties,
and I wanted to write songs
that they would have written
in those days without making
a comment on them.
You try to write
what you were like
when you were 25 years old,
you're gonna have a lot
of trouble, and I did.
FRANK RICH: It turned out
pretty well nonetheless.
Yeah, it turned out great.
How's it going?
Good. You?
Yeah, tell me.
Chinese Raundry.
Hi. Mary.
Say hello!
I think I got a job
"True Romances."
Thank you.
Writing captions.
What about the book?
What about the book?
Nothing. Are you
working on the book?
Yes. Good.
No. Mary!
Right, I know,
yes, me and Balzac
I finished the one-act
I got an audition
I started the story
Rehearsal pianist So, where are we
I'm moving to "Playboy"
The publisher called me
I'm doing a rewrite
My parents are coming
I saw "My Fair Lady"
I rewrote the rewrite
I sort of enjoyed it
I threw out the story
I'm meeting an agent
ALL: We'll all get
together on Sunday
We're opening doors
Singing, "Here we are!"
We're filling up days
On a dime
That faraway shore's
Looking not too far
We're following
every star
There's not enough time
I called a producer
I sent off the one-act
I started the story
He said to come see him
I dropped out of college
I met this musician
I'm playing a nightclub
They're doing my one-act
I'm working for "Redbook"
I rewrote the ballad
I finished the story
We started rehearsals
I threw out the story
and then the musician
I'm moving to
"Popular Science"
ALL: We're opening doors
"Look who's here"
Beginning to sail
On a dime
That faraway shore's
Getting very near
We haven't a thing
to fear
We haven't got time
OSGOOD: In a sense, your
fascination with puzzles,
you can't help but wonder
about whether that's
in any way analogous
to putting together a show.
Oh, it is,
very much. Sure.
I think that's what
art is anyway.
I mean, after all,
a puzzle is like art,
is making order out
of chaos, you know?
Take a jigsaw puzzle,
right? It's chaos.
Put it together,
it's a picture.
And I think art is
the same way
on a slightly
higher level.
moved to my first apartment
in Manhattan,
I didn't have enough money
to buy prints
and put them on the walls.
But a girl I knew gave me
an early 19th-century game,
a weird one called
the New and Fashionable
Game of the Jew.
It was a dice-throwing,
chip-betting game
that taught kids
to be anti-Semitic.
And it was a hateful game,
but it was really pretty
to look at,
and she had it framed
for me.
And I went to the store
where she bought it--
it was a rare bookstore--
and the owner had a lot
of 19th-century games.
And I bought a lot of them
'cause they only cost
two and three bucks apiece,
and that's what started
my game collection.
It's a curious and perverted
ability to be able to see
a word as a collection
of letters
instead of as having
a meaning or a sound.
For example,
you love puns.
So obviously the sound
of words is something
you're very into and you're
very quick and good at puns.
And of course, the precision
of your language.
You just don't see words
as collections of letters.
I passed under--when
Cinerama first was invented,
I passed under the sign
that was being erected
on Broadway.
It said "Cinerama" and I
immediately thought "American."
Didn't have
to think about it.
PREVIN: Wait a minute.
And "American" are
anagrams of each other...
SONDHEIM: Actually, it was
Oscar Hammerstein who got me
interested in words
and crossword puzzles
and anagrams.
He played Anagrams
at his house,
and he did the puns
and anagrams puzzle
in "The New York Times."
As a matter of fact,
he encouraged me to send
a puzzle in to "The Times"
when I was about 13,
and I did, and it was
rejected very nicely by them
with a letter that said
that they admired my
and I had to look
the word up
to find out what it meant.
What is that?
It's priest
Have a little priest
Is it really good?
Sir, it's too good,
at least
Then again, they don't
commit sins of the flesh
So it's pretty fresh
Awful lot of fat
Only where it sat
Haven't you got poet
or something like that?
No, you see,
the trouble with poet
Is how do you know
it's deceased?
Try the priest
SONDHEIM: I still get
pleasure out of--
out of writing
a musical phrase
that I think is really good.
I still get a pleasure
out of writing a line
that I think really
what I want to say.
And you know instantly
when it's right?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
When it's right for me,
There's that first moment,
you know, the first--
the first flush,
the falling in love,
and then you got
to let it cook and see
if you're still
in love in the morning
'cause it's a form
of showing off.
But it's also
a form of sharing.
You want to say,
"Hey, I caught this
moment" with people.
But it's a wonderful feeling.
It's a wonderful feeling.
It's what everybody
who writes or paints
or composes feels, or else
they wouldn't go on with it.
If you didn't get
those moments,
you couldn't put up
with the rest of it:
the loneliness
and the tedium
and the endless amounts of
work, you know, the sweat.
I love inventing.
The hard part is
the execution, obviously.
But even that's fun,
the working out.
When I say "fun,"
of course,
I'm talking
about agonizing fun.
I'm not talking
about pleasant fun.
To make art sound effortless
takes a lot of effort.
And another thing, Dick.
If you and Larry don't
fix up the opening
for that second act
by tomorrow--
Excuse me, Mr. Morley.
This is Miss Marrel,
the feature writer
of the United Syndicate.
Good evening.
Mr. Hart.
How do you do?
Mr. Rodgers.
How do you do?
She'd like to do
a story with you.
Gentlemen, you're about
to be interviewed.
Wait till I fix my tie.
Don't you like
being interviewed?
Well, I don't mind as
long as you don't ask us
which we write first,
the words or the music.
SONDHEIM: The question asked
of most songwriters is,
"Which comes first,
the music or the lyrics?"
And most people think
it's a dumb question.
It isn't; it's just
very hard to answer,
and it varies
from writer to writer.
When I have written
with Leonard Bernstein
or Jule Styne,
sometimes the music came
first, sometimes the lyrics.
In the case of Jule,
mostly the lyric.
In the case of Lenny,
mostly we wrote together.
But when I write
with myself,
I do what Cole Porter did.
I found, by going
through his papers
at the Library of Congress,
that he would take
his title line--
like "It Was Just One
of Those Things"--
and he would write it out
"It was just one
of those things"
on music paper,
but with no notes attached,
only the rhythm.
And from that, he would
extrapolate the melody.
The inflection
of the title
would give
him the rise and fall
of the melody,
and the rhythm of the title
would give him the rhythm
of the melody.
It was just--heh!--
one of those things.
Just one of
those crazy flings
One of those bells
That now and then
one of those things
Once I get a scene,
I sometimes will put the scene
on the easel of the piano
and just improvise
at the piano,
just reading the dialogue.
Other times,
I will scour the dialogue
for useful phrases
that might be refrain lines
or central ideas.
I strictly lie down--
ISAACS: How can you
write lying down?
Uh, because it's easy
to fall asleep.
Actually, I do that less
than I used to,
but I got in
the habit of doing it.
No, one of the reasons
I have bad posture is
from many, many years
of hunched over a piano
and lying down
with a pad propped
on my knees.
I work entirely
with Blackwing pencils
for a number of reasons.
One is it's very soft lead
and therefore wears down
very quickly.
So you can spend a lot
of time re-sharpening,
which is a lot easier
and more fun than writing.
I've often used alcohol
as a help in writing.
It's very good for loosening
up the inhibitions
as long as you don't
drink too much.
And in fact, the only thing
I've ever written
that's just on water was
the score for a movie
called "Stavisky."
And I realized it was 'cause
I didn't have to write lyrics.
There are so few words in a lyric that each--
3 or 4 words is
the equivalent of a scene
in a play or a chapter
in a novel.
And unless every word is
right, it stands out
like a sore thumb
and becomes much bigger
than you had intended it.
And it's very hard
because of the limitations
of the language
and the restrictions
of what music does to words
to come out with a lyric
that is consistently good
from beginning to end.
WOMAN: It's a very short road
from the pinch and the punch
To the paunch
and the pouch
And the pension...
SAWYER: I'm trying
to imagine what it is
to be able to sit down
and write,
"It's a very short road
from the pinch and the punch
to the paunch and the pouch
and the pension."
Does it make you laugh?
Once I got the idea
of that song--
Well, it's true of all
the songs I write of,
particularly when they're
very verbal songs.
You make lists is
what you do,
and you start getting
into the character.
It's always about
getting into the character,
and you start to make lists
of what she would talk about.
And you suddenly find
that certain words either--
if they don't rhyme with each other, relate to each other.
And things can catenate. It's
very much about serendipity.
It's a very--
"Oh, I didn't think.
Pinch? Paunch! Pension!"
Once you get the idea
of, let's say, jowls,
and you think of pouch,
you say, "Wait a minute.
"You know, that--maybe
we can make something
out of the similarity
of those sounds."
I've never heard an audience
laugh as much and as loud
and as long as they do
at his lyrics in this show.
Audiences don't
listen to lyrics,
very much.
I think they do
because they love--
Because they have
so much to take in.
You have to take in
music and lyrics--
JAMES MacANDREW: You mean, if
they don't hear your lyrics--
you have to blame it on
Mr. Montresor and Mr. Rodgers?
No, I don't blame it
on anybody.
I think we'd argue
with you. Seriously.
I think
they don't listen,
9 times out of 10,
for the right reason.
A song starts and it says,
"When you took my hand"--
and they say, "Yes,
you took my hand,
"we fell in love,
all right.
Let's get through
this song."
But Steve's lyrics
always have a development
of what has been said in the scene.
They always carry it
further, they're always
written in the diction
of the character.
I mean, not only funny.
I think it's easier
to be clever
than it is to carry
a character further,
and I think
he's the only one
who can do it today.
As a writer,
I think what I am
is an actor.
I'm an actor
when I'm writing songs,
and it's one
of my strengths as a writer
and one of the reasons
that actors and singers like
to sing my stuff.
It's not only the insight
of the librettist
and me working together,
but the fact is I write
conversational songs, that the actors
find that the rise and fall
of the tune
and the harmonies,
and particularly
the rhythms,
help them as singers
to act the song.
They don't have
to act against it.
I thought
you loved Clara.
I did love Clara.
I did.
But no one has
ever loved me
As deeply as you
No one has
truly loved me
As you have, Fosca
Love without reason
without mercy
Love without pride
Or shame
Love unconcerned
with being returned
No wisdom,
no judgment
No caution, no blame
No one has ever
known me
As clearly as you
No one has ever
shown me
What love could
be like until now
Not pretty or safe
or easy
But more than I
ever knew
Love within reason,
that isn't love
And I've learned
that from you
SONDHEIM: Making lyrics
feel natural,
sit on music...
in such a way
that you don't feel
the effort of the author
and so they shine
and bubble
and rise and fall
is very, very, very,
very, very hard to do.
And whereas you can sit at
the piano and just do that--
Feel you're making art.
My piano technique
is moderate.
I have a very good right hand
and a very lumpy left hand.
I'm very right-handed.
A lumpy left hand?
Oh, yeah, it's good--
good for that sort
of stuff.
But the right hand
is very flashy.
If you write at
the piano, you tend--
first of all, your muscle
memory tends to make
your fingers fall
into the same chords.
And secondly, if you have
a bad left hand,
it's gonna show up
in the music, so I try
to write away from the piano
as much as possible.
Do you always have music
playing in your head?
Ah, when I'm writing,
yeah, yeah. Always.
For the entire--
Yes, and when it turns
out to be somebody
else's tune,
I get very worried.
If I wake up
in the morning and I'm
humming "Some Enchanted
Evening," I take a very
close look at what I
wrote the night before.
Oscar Hammerstein talked to me
about Jerome Kern.
Jerome Kern was,
you know, maybe our grea--
he was the Schubert of the
American musical theater,
you know, probably
our greatest melodist.
And you think he gets up
in the morning and he goes:
You are the the promised
kiss of springtime
And he's just--coming out
of his head in the shower,
just jots it down, whatever.
Oscar told me
about writing that song.
He said, "I was in one room
writing the lyric. He was
in another room," and he
hears Jerome Kern go...
Every single key,
he just--he took--
he tried every single note in the scale
until he got the one--
Now he had to go on.
And that's how one
of the most gorgeous,
free-flowing melodies
ever written came out.
And I thought, "Boy,
that's good news
for the rest of us."
MAN: One thing
about Steve Sondheim--
when he likes a song,
really likes it,
he'll say, "No,
that's a good song."
Then, the fact that I don't
like it or don't get it,
which is not
all that infrequent--
it's quite frequent
that I hear something;
the first time out,
and I don't know
what I'm listening to.
And he doesn't force it
on me, but when he says,
"No, that's a good
song," by God, it is.
Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last
on the ground
You in midair
Send in the clowns
HUGHES RUDD: When you sit
down to write a show, do you
make a conscious effort
to write hit songs or--
Oh, no, no.
I've had very few
hit songs, actually.
They generally tend
to step out on their own
if they're going
to become hits.
I don't know what
makes a hit song.
Every writer who's ever had
a huge success wrote
what he wanted
to write, and it hit.
Nobody sits and says, "OK,
now the formula for a show
is we'll have a nun and
a dog and Abraham Lincoln."
Ha ha!
And it never works.
I want to be able to stand
in the back of the house
and be proud of what I see,
not just in terms
of my own work,
but say, "Yes, that
musical was worth spending
a year and a half
of your life on."
Most of the biggest hits
of the twenties, thirties,
and forties came
from shows and movies.
Starting in the fifties
with the rock
The split, the divergence
occurred, and so you could
get shows that were huge
hits without any hit songs.
The fact about "Send
In the Clowns" is that
for two years
after the show opened,
when that song
was available,
only one person was
attracted to it--
a man named Bobby Short.
And then,
about two years later,
both Judy Collins
and Frank Sinatra
got interested in it,
and the artists
made the hit.
I've often claimed
that "Hello, Dolly"
might not have been
a hit if Louis Armstrong
hadn't picked it up.
Often it is
the artist--meaning,
in the English
sense, the singer--
who makes
the song a hit.
DOUGLAS: Was that a surprise
to you that that became a hit?
SONDHEIM: Oh, absolutely
It's my only
really big hit song,
and it was designed
as a little throwaway song
for a touching moment
for Desire.
a, as you probably know,
a tradition in show business
that some of the best songs
and some of the most
popular ones were written
out of town, while a show
is trying out of town.
And everybody says,
"Isn't it remarkable
"what pressure will do to
a writer, how it'll make you
"write so well when you
only have a few days
in Boston or
in Philadelphia to write?"
Well, the truth is, it's not
the pressure; it's the fact
that you see the cast
and you know
who you're writing for.
I wrote "Send in the Clowns"
for Glynis Johns,
who was the star
of "A Little Night Music."
She did not have
a song in the second act,
and Hal Prince,
the director,
felt that she should.
There was one big scene
between her
and the leading man,
and I always felt it was
the leading man's scene
and I was outlining
a song for him.
And Hal said, "Let me
show you the scene," and he
directed the scene in
such a way that even though
on paper it was Fredrik's
scene, by the time I saw
the scene down at rehearsal,
it was Desire's scene.
I went home and wrote
the song that night.
the next morning,
when we started rehearsal,
Steve put his hands
and played the first chord.
And my eyes
absolutely brimmed.
I was absolutely choked,
like I am now.
And I looked at Len, who was
not an emotional person,
or doesn't show it, and his
eyes were filled up, too.
We knew.
We knew.
The first few chords.
SONDHEIM: Glynis was not
a singer with a capital "S."
She had a lovely,
sweet bell-like voice,
which was breathy
and short-winded,
and so it's written
in short phrases.
Isn't it rich?
Pause, pause,
take your breath.
Are we a pair?
Pause, pause,
take a breath.
Now she got a sustained line.
Me here at last
on the ground
Pause, pause, breath,
so, you know,
it's not hard to sing.
Isn't it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last
on the ground
You in
Send in the clowns
Isn't it bliss?
Don't you approve?
One who keeps
tearing around
One who
can't move
Where are
the clowns?
Send in the clowns
Just when I'd stopped
Opening doors
Finally knowing
The one
that I wanted
Was yours
Making my entrance again
with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there
Don't you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you'd
want what I want
Sorry, my dear
But where are
the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Send in the clowns
What a surprise
Who could foresee
I'd come to feel
about you what you felt
About me?
Why only now
When I see that you've
drifted away?
What a surprise
What a clich
Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer?
Losing my timing
this late
In my career?
But where are
the clowns?
send in the clowns
Don't bother
They're here
I've had letters
all over--
all during the years
from people who say
they love the song, but they
don't know what it means.
And in fact, I even
remember Frank Sinatra,
who, after all,
was responsible for making
it a hit, he was asked
in an article
what the lyric meant.
He said, "I don't know,
I don't care what--look.
"Ya meet a girl, you take up
with her, ya leave the girl.
Send in the clowns."
call yourself a poet?
Do you write poetry
apart from your lyrics?
Never, never. No.
Do you think it's
a different--
you're a different
world? Really?
Yes, it's mostly because--
You do write poetry.
You call it lyrics,
but so what?
No, you see, I think
they're poetic lyrics.
It's not a question, and
that's not modesty in any way.
It's a description.
Poetry seems to me
to exist in terms
of its conciseness, how much can be packed in.
Lyric-writing has
to exist in time.
The audience,
the listener cannot do
what the reader
of poetry does.
He cannot
go at his own speed.
He cannot go back
over the sentence.
Therefore it must be
crystal clear as it goes on.
That means you have
to under-write.
You have to lay
the sentences out
so there's enough air
for the ear
to take them in.
Also, what has to be
considered, and what
not enough people who write
dense lyrics consider,
is that there's a great deal
going on besides the lyric.
There's music, there's
costumes, there's lighting.
There's a lot of things
to listen to and look at.
And therefore, the lyric must
be, in that sense, simple.
It can be full
of complex thoughts,
and it certainly
can have resonance,
but it must be easy
to follow.
That is not true of poetry;
poetry need not
and probably often should
not be easy to follow.
"Oh, what a beautiful morning"
is a line I'd be ashamed
to put on paper,
but once you hear it
with Rodgers'
melodic line, it's--
Couldn't be better.
That's known as poetic.
Oh, what a beautiful
Oh, what a beautiful day
I got a beautiful
Everything's goin'
my way
SONDHEIM: Hammerstein's most
famous opening number is
"Oh, What a Beautiful
which was a startling number
when he wrote it
because most shows--in fact,
probably all of them, opened
with chorus numbers.
And here came
a lonely cowboy,
came strolling onto
the stage
and started to sing
a cappella
and then the orchestra
joined in, and right away,
the audience knew they were
in for something odd,
and therefore
it prepared them
for the rest of the evening.
People do not
understand that Oscar was
an experimental playwright,
that his--I think
his major contribution
to the theater
is not the songs,
but the playwriting,
and you could say, "Oh,
"but those plays
are so naive,
those characters
are so naive."
But think of
the theatrical imagination
going on with them.
My entire generation,
you know--Bock and Harnick,
and Kander and Ebb--
our entire generation of songwriters
is based on what Oscar
encouraged us to do.
Well, he really literally
taught me everything I know
and mostly in one afternoon.
When I was 15 years old, I'd
written a show for school.
I asked him to judge it
as if he would judge
a professional show,
because I was so sure
it was so wonderful.
He said, "In that case,
it's the worst thing
I ever read."
I was terribly upset
because I thought
I was gonna be
the first 15-year-old
to have a show
on Broadway, you know?
He really did say,
"The worst thing
I have ever read"?
"Worst" sounds cruel,
and he was not cruel
that way,
but he made it very clear
that if I were going to ask
for professional standards,
he was going to treat me
like a professional.
But he did say, he said,
"It isn't that it's
"untalented; I think
you're talented,
but I'll tell you
where it's wrong."
And he then went through
the show, word by word,
all the songs,
all the dialogue,
to show me where
everything was terrible.
And I picked up
from that afternoon
a couple of principles
which I'm perfectly happy
to pass on...
Please do.
such as that a song
should be like a play.
It should have a beginning,
a middle, and an end.
It should have an idea.
State the idea,
and then build the idea
and develop it and finish.
And at the end,
you should be at a place
from where you began.
I probably learned
more about writing
in that afternoon than I've
learned the rest of my life.
'Cause it was all
just force-fed to me
as if I was
a Strasbourg goose.
It was just crammed into me,
and I've never forgotten it.
I can repeat everything
he said that afternoon.
And everything he said,
incidentally, was true.
He did not say a single
thing that I disagree with.
My style is entirely
different than his 'cause
one of the things
he told me to do was
not to imitate him.
"If you write what you
feel, it'll come out true.
If you write what I feel,
it'll come out false."
And of course, he was right.
"Write for yourself."
Then he said,
"If you do, you'll be 90%
ahead of everybody else."
And, of course, the minute
he put it into
those competitive terms,
I zoomed away from him
and never wrote
like him again.
If I didn't
take what he gave us
and further it,
there would be no point.
All of us have done that.
And others will do that
after us, I hope.
But the whole point is
to further things,
to take what you've
gotten and make more
and make more and go
in different directions,
but always based on what
he was telling us.
You can't learn
in a classroom
and you can't
learn on paper.
You only learn by writing
and doing and writing
and doing.
As a friend of mine says,
"Write something, put it on.
Write something, put it on.
Write something, put it--"
Well, you can't
always put it on,
but that's the only way
to do it.
That's how everybody who's
ever been good got good.
He may--hasn't much
that's plus
You might describe him
A false alarm
A broken arm
An imitation Hitler
and with littler charm
But, oh
Can that boy foxtrot
His mouth is mean
He's not too clean
What makes him
look reptilian
Is the brilliantine
But, oh
Can that boy foxtrot...
We were in Boston with Follies
and we were having...a problem
with the song called
"Can That Boy Foxtrot,"
which had originally been
written as a throwaway song
for a minor character.
But Hal Prince,
the director,
had cast Yvonne DeCarlo,
who was a movie star.
She was a name in the cast,
so whatever number
she sang had to land.
It didn't necessarily
have to stop the show,
but it had to--
you had to feel that it was
worthwhile, her being
in the cast for her to have
sung this number to you.
the song that went out?
It was called "Oh, Boy,
Can That Boy Foxtrot."
That was the joke.
And you do that once,
it's funny.
You do that twice,
it's all right.
You do that 8 times?
Ha ha!
"I get it, I get it,
I get it, I get it."
The number was
just sort of a filler.
It didn't really relate
to the emotions
or the story of the evening,
and it was just a number
for a movie star.
So we knew that we
could improve it
if I could find
a way of replacing it.
And I couldn't think
of a song to write for her,
and we were sitting around
a table--James Goldman
and Michael Bennett and
Hal Prince, the directors,
and I--
and James said, "You know,
it probably should be,
"you know, a song
of surviving.
I mean, well, you know,
I'm still here."
And I said, "That's it.
Thank you very much."
And just that single phrase
then suggested
the whole song
and this whole history
of her life.
I've slept in shanties
Guest of the W.P.A.
And I'm here
Ha ha!
Danced in my scanties
3 bucks a night was the pay
And I'm here
I've stood on breadlines
with the best
Watched while
the headlines did the rest
In the Depression,
was I depressed?
Nowhere near
I met a big financier
And I'm here
SONDHEIM: So I thought,
"I'll write something
of substance."
And I thought about,
"All right, this lady is
an ex-movie star
who's now in TV,"
and being
a movie buff, I thought,
"I know, I'll base it on
Joan Crawford
and her career."
She started
as a silent film star.
Then she became
a sound star,
and then she eventually
became, you know,
superannuated and started
to do camp movies
where she was a hatchet
murderer and, you know,
she did "Baby Jane,"
all that sort of stuff.
She became a joke on and of
herself, but she survived.
She survived,
what everyone thinks.
I thought,
"That's who this lady is."
And so I took
Joan Crawford's career
and the history of
the United States through--
Well, because she went
through all those things.
She went through
Beebe's Bathysphere,
she went through know,
the King's abdication.
She lived through all those era--thing--at the same time
she lived through
what happened in Hollywood.
She lived through
the drug era in Hollywood.
She lived
through the Communist scare
in Hollywood.
I thought, Put all that
together and now there's
at least a song of
substance so it doesn't have
one childish joke
on the word "foxtrot."
And, at least--so if it
doesn't stop the show, fine,
but the audience will know
that they've been served
a meal and not
an hors d'oeuvre.
Good times and bum times
I've seen them all
and, my dear
I'm still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just
pretzels and beer
But I'm here
I've stuffed
the dailies in my shoes
I have strummed ukuleles
Sung the blues
I have watched
my dreams disappear
But I'm still here
I've been through Reno
I've been
through Beverly Hills
Now I'm here
Reefers and vino
Rest cures,
religion, and pills
And I'm here
I've been called a pinko
Commie tool
But I got through it
By my pool, I
I should have been through
an acting school
That seems clear
Still, someone said--
You're sincere.
So I'm here
I've gotten through
and J. Edgar Hoover
Wow, that was fun
and a half
When you've been through
and J. Edgar Hoover
Well, anything else
is a laugh
Black sable one day
The next day
it goes into hock
But I'm here
Top billing Monday
Tuesday you're
tourin' in stock
But I'm here
Oh, first you're
another sloe-eyed vamp
Then someone's mother
Ooh, and then
you're camp
And then you career
From career to career
And I'm almost
through my memoirs
And you know
that I'm here
I've gotten through "Hey,
lady, aren't you whose's?"
"Ooh, what a looker
you were"
Or, better yet,
"Oh, lady--sorry"
"I thought you
were whose's"
"Well, what ever
happened to her?"
Good times and bum times
I've seen 'em all
and, my dear
I'm still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just
pretzels and beer
But I'm here
Well, I've run
the gamut A to Z
3 cheers and, damn it,
c'est la vie
Well, I even got through
all of last year
And I'm here
Look who's here
I'm still here,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
You better believe it
I'm still here
I'm still here
I'm still
PRINCE: I think because
"Follies" was such a cult show
and there's been so much
written about it,
the fact that it did
not pay off
was something
of a "scandale."
To hear it spoken of,
it was this great disaster
The reason for that is
that everyone thought
it was a success
until it closed one day
and then they suddenly
realized, "My God,
it never was a success."
the advantages of having
a collaborator
is you're never slammed
in the face alone, even if
you get the bad reviews.
It's still you're
in a boat with somebody.
I had three successes
my first 3 times out.
They were not personal
I got terrible reviews or completely ignored,
but they were successes.
I was making a living.
I could afford
to write another show--
"Anyone Can Whistle,"
which came next.
When I saw that it was
going to be a failure,
I thought I'd be
devastated, and I wasn't.
I was disappointed
that more of my friends
wouldn't get a chance
to see the show,
and that's really
the extent of it.
You know, it wasn't sort
of resilience and chin up.
It was, you know--
I like writing songs,
I like writing shows
and, you know,
if that
had been my first show,
I'm not sure
I would have bounced back.
But then I experienced
a real failure
when I did
"Do I Hear a Waltz?,"
which Arthur Laurents was--
based on a play by Arthur
called "Time of the Cuckoo."
I thought, by adapting
"Time of the Cuckoo"
as a musical with Arthur
doing the book--
I liked writing
with Arthur--
I would be doing Arthur
a favor,
and I would also be paying
off my unspoken promise
to Oscar to write a show
with Dick Rodgers.
And we thought, "Well,
this will be an easy job
and we'll make a quick buck."
Those are all reasons
never to write a musical.
Do I hear a waltz?
I want more
than to hear a waltz
I want you to
share it 'cause, oh, boy
Do I hear a waltz?
a respectable show.
It was not
lambasted by the critics.
It was very politely
and politely received
by the audience,
and had no passion
and no blood
and no reason to be.
And I learned from that
the only reason
to write is from love.
You must not
write because you think
it's gonna be a hit,
because it's expedient,
or anything like that.
It's so difficult to write,
it's so difficult to put on
a show, you better--
if you have the privilege
of being able to write it,
you write it out of passion.
That's what failure
taught me,
and that was the real
JAMES LAPINE: When I met you,
you were pretty down
in the dumps after "Merrily We Roll Along."
You were even talking about--
you know, maybe tryin'
to do somethin' else or--
Yes, it was personal.
I really felt,
paranoid or not,
and I think
Hal did, too,
that everybody
in, as we say,
"the business," really
wanted us to fail.
They were glad
that the show was--
and I thought, "I can't work
in this hostile atmosphere."
I really--you know,
because you do have to go
out there in public, and I'm
a Broadway baby, you know?
Luckily, I discovered
the joys of off-Broadway,
and that's what revived me.
When we wrote "Sunday
in the Park with George,"
we didn't know it was
gonna go to Broadway,
and that was fun.
You know, it was Mickey
and Judy putting on a show.
I'm sure I would have
gotten back to songwriting
anyway, 'cause there's
nothing else I could do,
but that's what did it.
MAN: A 5, 6, 7, 8.
We love you
Phone rings, door chimes,
in comes company
No strings, good times,
just chums, company
Late nights, quick bites,
party games, deep talks
Long walks, telephone calls
Thoughts shared,
souls bared, private names
All those photos
up on the walls
"Company" is a show
about marriage
and the difficulties of marriage
and the joys of marriage.
And I had never been married,
either officially
or unofficially,
when I wrote "Company."
I thought, "How am I gonna write
about something
"I know nothing about?
"I've observed marriages
and I have feelings and opinions
and insights, but I don't know
anything about it."
So I called my good friend
Mary Rodgers,
who was on her second marriage,
and very happily on
her second marriage.
And I said, "Tell me
about marriage,"
and she spent an evening with me
and she told me about marriage,
about her marriages, and about
her observations on marriage.
And I took a yellow pad out
and I took notes,
exactly as if it were
a lecture,
and "Company" is a result
of that evening.
It's the little things
you do together
Do together, do together
That make perfect
The hobbies
you pursue together
Savings you accrue together
Looks you misconstrue together
that make marriage a joy
Kiss kiss
SONDHEIM: The reviews in Boston
were, to put it mildly, mixed.
One of the reviewers loved the
show, and he loved it because
he said it was anti-marriage,
which, of course, it isn't.
So we had the ironic reaction
of reading a rave review
by a guy who didn't
understand the piece at all.
The review
in "Variety" was one
of the most scathing
I've ever encountered.
The reviewer said it was
a show "strictly for homos
and old ladies," and I think
he went on from there.
MAN: "Being Alive," take one.
Someone to hold you
too close
Well, you're very good, and I
don't want to spoil something
that's potentially marvelous,
and I need more guitar.
Let's hear guitar.
JONES: Alive
SONDHEIM: Now this is the
first time I'd really like
to feel rhythmic looseness,
which you do right here.
That's the explosion.
That's the flower bursting.
And that's where you can
take rhythmic liberties.
Just what you're doing
is fine.
JONES: Vary my days
That's nice and free.
But alone...
Well, maybe there's one more
in me. Let's find out, huh?
Dino, practically swallow
the mic on the end.
OK, I'll stay on.
Ha ha ha!
We're gonna slow up
the tempo, Dean.
Someone to hold you
too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
To ruin your sleep
That's true, but there's more than that.
Is that all you think there is to it?
You've got so many reasons for not being with someone,
but, Robert, you haven't one good reason for being alone.
Come on, you're on to something Bobby.
You're on to something.
JONES: Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell
You see what you look for, you know?
You're not a kid anymore, Robbie.
I don't think you'll ever be a kid again, kiddo.
Hey, buddy, don't be afraid that it won't be perfect.
The only thing to be afraid of really is that it won't be.
WOMAN: Don't stop now. Keep going.
Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not
Will want you to share
A little, a lot
And what does
all that mean?
Robert, how do you know
so much about it
when you've never
been there?
It's much better living it
than looking at it, Robert.
Add 'em up, Bobby.
Add 'em up.
Someone to crowd you
with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you
come through
Who'll always be there
As frightened as you
of being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Blow out the candles,
Robert, and make a wish.
Want something.
Want something.
Somebody hold me too close
Somebody hurt me too deep
Somebody sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
of being alive
Being alive
Somebody need me too much
Somebody know me too well
Somebody pull me up short
Put me through hell
Give me support
for being alive
Make me alive
Make me alive
Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days
But alone is alone
Not alive
Somebody crowd me with love
Somebody push me to care
Somebody make me
come through
I'll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive
SONDHEIM: My first serious
relationship occurred
when I was 60 years old,
when I fell in love.
And I think it didn't
happen till then because
I wasn't open for it,
I wasn't ready for it.
I was brought up
as an only child.
I enjoyed being an only child.
I enjoyed being alone.
I still enjoy often being alone,
but I think I'd gotten
in the habit of it,
and when I met somebody,
the habit got broken.
Oh, that's the Forum.
Oh. Well, yes.
A funny thing happened
on the way here,
but I--I can't talk
about it.
SONDHEIM: Between my freshman
and sophomore years in college,
I had discovered that I would--
I had a lot of trouble
with my mother and getting along
with her, and she--
she didn't really want a child,
but she was very...
very much in love,
I think, with my father
and even obsessed with him.
So when he left her, which
he did, for another woman,
the wrath of God had
nothing on her,
and she, unfortunately,
tried to make me pay for
the sins of my father
and so it was not
a very good relationship.
And if it hadn't been
for the Hammersteins,
I really don't know where I
would be, if I'd even be alive.
BOB BROWN: A lot of Sondheim's
themes come from having had
his own expectations
bruised as a young man
when his parents divorced,
and he got trapped in the middle
of bitter resentments
that never subsided,
even as he grew older.
He recalls a letter
his mother wrote to him
when he was in his 40s
and she was entering a hospital
to have a pacemaker implanted.
SONDHEIM: And so she wrote me
a letter and had it
hand-delivered the night before
she went into the hospital.
And she said--opening sentence
was, "Before I undergo
open-heart surgery," which she
had underlined 3 times,
"I just wanted to tell you
that I have only one regret
in my life, which is
giving you birth."
And when I got this note--
and then she went on--
I thought--you know,
I was stunned first
and then I thought,
"Oh, my God."
I had always thought
all those years that,
like so many parent/child
it was misplaced
or misguided love
and, you know, it was
all about my father
and she didn't know
where to place her feelings.
Then I realized she never
wanted me on earth.
I was an inconvenience.
Do you want children?
Yeah, I'm sorry
I didn't have any.
Yep. It's, uh,
you know, I am.
But art is the other way
of having children,
of teaching.
I believe that
very firmly.
The idea of teaching
a child everything--
from colors to clouds
to music, it's--
teaching in the sense
of opening up the mind.
Not teaching;
opening up the mind,
which is what
education is about.
All education is just about
making people curious.
That's all it's about.
And to get a child to be
curious about everything
would be unbearable
thrill for me.
Or a bearable thrill.
MAN: These are my friends
See how they glisten
See this one shine
How he smiles
in the light, my friend
My faithful friend
this is a love song.
It's, in fact,
the big ballad
of the show, is his love
for his razors.
So let's start it as
a genuinely passionate,
semi-whispered ballad
that keeps rising
and falling--
intense, sexual ballad.
And let's start again
from that point of view,
and let's not take
any rubato.
Let's keep it absolutely
rigid to start with...
so it has
a trance-like quality.
The reason that I wrote
this rhythmically,
so squarely is because
he's falling into
a state of almost semi--
of self-hypnosis.
So it must have that feeling
as opposed to conversation.
The songs we've been
working on so far
this afternoon are all
about conversation.
This is exactly reverse.
This is non-conversational.
This is a ritual.
SONDHEIM: I love teaching,
and I've always thought
that all art
is a form of teaching.
I think painting's
a form of teaching.
Any kind of communication
is a form of teaching.
And an artist, a visual artist
shows us ways of looking
at the world, and a novelist
shows us ways
that people behave; composer
teaches us ways to listen.
Is there
any conscious decision
to impart some
information in songs,
some information spoken--
Entirely conscious.
I think people do not
think carefully enough
about what to sing
and what not to sing.
There's a tendency either
to sing everything
or merely to sing songs
and speak.
And I think there are
certain shows that call
for one technique or
another, but the choice
of what to sing and what
not to sing is--
first of all,
it's delicate,
it's difficult,
but it must--
they are choices that must
be made consciously.
But one of the things
you will discover,
I hope, is that,
as your material goes
to actors and actresses,
you suddenly find
yourself in the
embarrassing position
of having to defend
what you've written
because an actor will come to you and say,
"Now, what did you mean
by this line?"
And you can't say, "Oh,
well, what I mean--"
You've got to tell them
exactly what it means.
You must be able to defend
every single word and note.
FERRARA: Well, the
characters in "Merrily,"
when you first meet them,
they're sort of
at their most jaded
and kind of most unlikable.
What did you want
the audience to take away
from moving backwards and
seeing these characters go
from kind of their worst
to their most innocent?
It's a cautionary tale.
It's what can happen to you.
It's how ideals can get--
it's a show
about expedience.
It's about you got
to be very careful
if you're gonna take
the expedient path.
All they care about is
getting their work done
and having it heard.
It is 3 idealists
whose idealism
is one of the things
that binds them.
The thing about "Opening
Doors" is it catches
the whole zeitgeist,
the whole thing
of getting excited
when you're young writers
and you're knocking
on producers' doors
and, you know,
every moment is a crisis
and everything requires
a phone call
and everything is at
a level of hysteria
until you finally get
to the producer's office
and then it's all
a disaster.
Let me call you back.
This is just a draft. Probably it stinks.
Haven't had
the time to do a polish.
Will you sing?
Who wants to live
in New York?
Who wants the worry,
the noise, the dirt, the heat?
Who wants the garbage cans
clanging in the street?
Suddenly I do
They're always
popping their cork
I'll fix that line.
The cops, the cabbies,
the salesgirls up at Saks
You got to have
a real taste for maniacs
Suddenly I do
That's great
That's swell
The other stuff as well
It isn't every day I hear
a score this strong
But, fellas, if I may,
there's only one thing wrong
There's not a tune
you can hum
There's not a tune you go bum-bum-bum-di-dum
You need a tune to go
Give me some melody
Why can't you
throw 'em a crumb?
What's wrong with lettin'
them tap their toes a bit?
I'll let ya know when
Stravinsky has a hit
Give me some melody
Oh, sure, I know
It's not that kinda show
But can't you have a score
that's sorta in between?
But play a little more,
I'll show ya what I mean
Who wants to live
in New York?
I always hated the dirt,
the heat, the noise
But ever since
I met you, I--
Listen, boys,
maybe it's me
But that's just not
a hum-a-ma-ma-ma-mable melody
Write more, work hard
Leave your name
with the girl
Less avant-garde
Leave your name
with the girl
Just write a plain old
They're stopping rehearsals,
they ran out of money
We lasted one issue,
my book was rejected
The nightclub was raided,
I have to start coaching
My parents are coming
They screwed up
the laundry
My wallet was stolen
I saw the musician
We're being evicted
I'm having a breakdown
ALL: We'll all get
together on Sunday
They're slamming the doors,
singing, "Go away"
It's less of a sail
than a climb
That faraway shore's
farther every day
We're learning to ricochet
We still have a lot to say
You know what we'll do?
We'll do a revue
We'll do a revue
of our own
Who wants to live
in New York?
Who wants the worry,
the noise, the dirt, the heat?
Who wants the garbage
cans clang--
I can sing higher.
Thank you.
We're looking
for someone with
a little more
experience. Next.
They're always
popping their cork
Up a tone.
The cops, the cabbies,
the salesgirls up at Saks
Up a tone.
You got to have
a real taste for maniacs
Thank you.
You're hired.
I'm Beth
I'm Frank
I really thought
I stank
I'm Mary
By the way, I'm told
we open Saturday
You're not serious?
Nobody's ready
Apparently somebody
canceled a booking
The songs aren't finished
And what about costumes?
And how do I learn
all these numbers?
I'll bring you the copies
of everything later
This evening
But I'll have to have
all of the music...
We'll worry about it
on Sunday
We're opening doors
Singing, "Here we are"
We're filling up days
on a dime
That faraway shore's
looking not too far
We're following every star
There's not enough time
We're banging on doors
Shouting, "Here again"
We're risking it all
on a dime
That faraway shore's
looking near again
The only thing left is when
We know we should
count to 10
We haven't got time
We haven't got time
MAN: You are so admired
not just for what you've made,
but also for how you've
been to people--
that you've been generous
about teaching,
that you've been honest,
and that you have tried
to be as helpful
as you can be.
When you...try
to approach your work
as all that you've done and all
that people expect from you--
Well, the expectations
come from the work,
not from the teaching.
Teaching, to me, is the
sacred profession and I cry
when I talk about it,
and I'll probably cry now.
But my life was saved
by teachers;
first a Latin teacher
in high school
and then Oscar Hammerstein,
who was a teacher,
and who...
just before he died, gave me
a portrait of himself.
And I asked him to
inscribe it, which is weird
when you think that,
you know, it's like asking
your father to inscribe
something, you know.
And he wrote...
Tsk. Gonna cry.
He wrote, "For Stevie,
my friend and teacher."
And that describes
Oscar better
than any other way
I can describe him.
He understood that he--as
you know, in "King and I,"
he said, "By your pupils
you are taught."
So teaching, to me, is...
it's a necessity.
I couldn't live without it.
If you could conjure up
Oscar Hammerstein
right now,
what would you say to him
about your career,
having sprung from him
in so many ways?
I would say,
"Aren't you proud of me?"
SONDHEIM: But when I write now,
I'm aware that the people
who like my work are expecting
so much, and it makes me tense.
You've got to top yourself?
It's not so much that
you have to top yourself,
it's that you want to write
something fresh.
You want to write something
you haven't written before.
So it's an act of courage,
in a sense, to--
It sure is, and it needs
more courage,
I think, as you get older,
and that's--see,
that's what I didn't expect.
I suppose if there's one
that's closest to my heart,
it would probably be "Sunday
in the Park with George"
because of the ambitiousness
of what it's trying to say.
James Lapine and I were
talking about a play
that James had directed,
which had utilized
this particular painting,
"Sunday Afternoon."
And we started talking
about the painting
and the fact that nobody
in the painting is looking
at anybody else, and yet there
are 50 people in the painting.
So why aren't they
looking at each other?
Are they hiding
from each other?
Are they in the park
for devious reasons?
Then James said, "The main
character is missing."
And I said, "Who?"
picking up my cue.
And he said, "The painter,"
and once he said that,
we knew we had a show.
It's like a photographer
went out on the island,
the Grande Jatte, and took
a picture of a lot of people
strolling in the park,
the humanity of it.
And I thought,
"These people don't know
"they're gonna be immortal,
"and so I'm gonna write
a song about that,
"that it's gonna be
outside of themselves,
"they're gonna be talking,
singing about themselves
"and what they're doing, but
they're gonna be acknowledging
that they are immortal."
And it all leads to the word
"forever," which is--
when I wrote that word, I cried
because I thought,
"That's what it's about."
And I then decided...
that I would do it all
in one sentence.
It's a lyric that's
in one sentence
because there is a kind of...
I don't know how to put it.
Oh, it's--it's like--
it's eternal, it's infinite,
it's whatever...
whatever--it's what
I feel about art.
It just has no beginning
and no end.
It's just one thing.
Then I could see that they would
all be singing that one idea...
that "here we are in a park and
we're gonna be here forever."
That's why it has that--
you know, it's got
an almost funerary beat
to it, you know?
It's almost a funeral march,
but it isn't quite.
It's a triumphant march.
CAST: Let us pass
Through our perfect park
Pausing on a Sunday
By the cool blue
triangular water
On the soft green
elliptical grass
As we pass
Through arrangements
of shadows
Towards the verticals
of trees
By the blue, purple, yellow,
red water on the green
Orange, violet mass
of the grass
In our perfect park
of flecks of light
And dark
And parasols
Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum
CAST: People strolling
through the trees
Of a small suburban park
On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday
A blank page or canvas.
His favorite.
So many...
MAN: I'm just
a Broadway baby
Walking off my tired feet
Pounding 42nd Street
To be in a show
Broadway Baby
Learning how to sing
and dance
Waiting for that
one big chance
To be in a show
Gee, I'd like to be
on some marquee
All twinkling lights
A spark to pierce the dark
From Union Park
to Washington Heights
Someday maybe
All my dreams will be repaid
Hell, I'd even play the maid
To be in a show
Say, Mr. Producer
Some girls get the breaks
Just give me my cue, sir
I've got what it takes
Say, Mr. Producer
I'm talking to you, sir
I don't need a lot
Only what I got
Plus a tube of grease paint
And a follow spot
I'm a Broadway baby
Slaving at a 5 and 10
Dreamin' of
the great day when
I'll be in a show
Broadway baby
Making rounds all afternoon
Eatin' at a greasy spoon
To save up my dough
Oh, at my tiny flat
There's just my cat
A bed and a chair
Still, I'll stick it till
I'm on a bill
All over Times Square
Someday maybe
If I stick it long enough
I can get to strut my stuff
Working for a nice man
Like a Ziegfeld
or a Weismann
In a big-time Broadway show