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Topics in Drama: Musical Theatre of Stephen Sondheim

ENGL 271.601
R 5:30-8:10

Among theatre critics and a large sector of the public, Stephen Sondheim is generally considered the most significant composer and lyricist in the contemporary theatre; he is, in fact, one of the few artists working in musicals who is accorded the kind of serious consideration generally reserved for "legitimate" playwrights.

In this seminar, we will examine what are essentially three stages in Sondheim's long and productive career: first as a lyricist, collaborating with Jule Styne (Gypsy) and Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story).

Beginning in 1970, Sondheim -- now both composer and lyricist -- began a partnership with director Harold Prince that produced a series of musicals (including Company, Follies, Pacific Overtures) still thought to be among the most innovative and substantial in the history of the genre. Finally, we will examine Sondheim's musicals since his 1981 break with Prince. These later works, co-produced with theatre artists including James Lapine and Jerry Zaks, are often smaller in scale, intensely personal, and incorporate elements of performance art and popular culture. (Please note: enrollment is limited to 24 students, and is by permission of instructor only.)