Stephen Sondheim’s Most Memorable Songs

In his 91-year life, prolific composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim crafted some of Broadway’s most iconic tunes. From “West Side Story”To “Into the Woods,”His music has stood the test, and cemented his status as a theatre legend. On Friday, Sondheim was honored by Broadway, along with Bernadette Peters, a longtime collaborator. “He gave me so much to sing about. I loved him dearly and will miss him so much. Thank you for all the gifts you gave the world Steve.”

Rachel Zegler, who will portray Maria in the Steven Spielberg adaptation, is keeping busy. “West Side Story,” recalled Sondheim’s profound impact on her love for musical theater. “Sweeney Todd was the first musical I ever comprehended. 5 years old, dancing around to ‘A Little Priest’ without knowing what it was about. My heart is so shattered. What a life.”

Sondheim received seven Tony awards during his career. He also received an honorary Tony in 2008 to celebrate his lifetime accomplishments. With 19 major musicals and hundreds of songs, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down his impressive repertoire into a brief list, but we’ve made our best effort below, along with videos of our favorite renditions.

Honorable Mentions “Ladies Who Lunch,” “Rose’s Turn,” “A Little Priest,” “The Ballad of Booth,” “Maria,” “Finishing the Hat.”

 

‘The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd,’ ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’

This is how to open a show. Sondheim was able to tell his audience exactly what the show was about in the opening number. “Sweeney Todd.” True, it’s a challenge to refrain from putting every single song from “Sweeney Todd”The opening number is the most important on the list. However, it sets the scene for the more gruesome tales to come. It is clear that this is not a fairy tale with the unnerving piano music and the staccato performance by the ensemble. We highly recommend experiencing this intro with the original Broadway cast from 1982 (above) but it has also been recreated so many times including on film, in NBC’s “The Office”It even received a loving tribute and total rewrite From the cast of “Hamilton”For charity.

The best line: “Swing your razor wide, Sweeney / Hold it to the skies / Freely flows the blood of those who moralize”

‘Somewhere,’ ‘West Side Story’

This duet’s beauty is almost enough to convince the audience that things might turn out well for Tony and Maria. As the battle between the Jets and the Sharks rages on, the simplicity of the young lovers’ dream is placed center stage: “Peace and quiet and open air.”We challenge all of you to view the 1961 film adaptation. “Somewhere”Starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer, and sung by Jimmy Bryant & Marni Nixon. It’s hard to not be overwhelmed by the emotions that come with young love, passion, and anxiety.

The best line: “There’s a place for us / A time and place for us / Hold my hand and we’re halfway there / Hold my hand and I’ll take you there”

 

‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses,’ ‘Gypsy’

The ultimate optimist’s anthem, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”Act 1 closes “Gypsy,”Rose has vowed to make Louise a star. With soaring vocals and powerful lyrics conveying Rose’s unrelenting drive, it’s no wonder the number was an instant Broadway classic (and a signature song for Ethel Merman). We love this Patti Lupone rendition of Rose, which we think is the most iconic.

The best line: “Honey, everything’s coming up roses and daffodils! / Everything’s coming up sunshine and Santa Claus! / Everything’s gonna be bright lights and lollipops!”

 

‘Send in the Clowns,’ ‘A Little Night Music’

After rejecting her true love, Fredrick, actress Desirée finally realizes after years that a life with him is what she wants. However, when he turns the tables and rejects her, Desirée is forced to come to terms with the consequences of her stubbornness from years ago, feeling foolish and summoning “the clowns.”This version by Bernadette Peters, a long-time Sondheim collaborator, will make you weep. The iconic Barbra Strreisand track “The Song” is also an honorable mention. Broadway AlbumWe also recommend that you check out Dame Judi Dench’s version.

The best line: “Don’t you love a farce? / My fault, I fear / I thought that you’d want what I want / Sorry my dear”

 

‘No One Is Alone,’ ‘Into the Woods’

“No One Is Alone”The second act of bookends “Into the Woods,” as the remaining lead characters must reckon with the consequences of their wishes from the far-more-lighthearted first act. In case Sondheim hadn’t made it crystal-clear already, this moment hammers home the message that fairy tale lessons are far more applicable to real life than they may seem: we must all learn to make it on our own, even when we don’t feel ready. As Cinderella and the Baker teach this lesson to Jack and Little Red, they reveal that nobody can leave the woods with their innocence intact—and maybe that’s okay. In all instances of “Into the Woods”We have to follow the Broadway original cast, with one exception. Tituss Burgess’ version of “Stay With Me.”

The best line: “Sometimes people leave you / halfway through the wood / Others may deceive you / You decide what’s good”

 

‘Losing My Mind,’ ‘Follies’

Sally, a fading showgirl, laments the never-ending stream of thoughts about her ex-lover that haunts her every day. “The sun comes up, I think about you / The coffee cup, I think about you.” The achingly beautiful melody underscores the question at the heart of Sally’s pain and confusion–was it love? It meant the same to him as it does to her. This was done by Imelda Staunton “Follies” song proving that even if you don’t like the musical itself, you have to love this song.

The best line: “You said you loved me, or were you just being kind? / Or am I losing my mind?”

 

‘Being Alive,’ ‘Company’

This song captures the love longing as well as any other song. This is In “Being Alive,”The emotional climax “Company,” bachelor Bobby finally realizes his desire to find someone to share the simplest moments with–even life’s annoyances: “Someone to sit in your chair / and ruin your sleep.” “Marriage Story” proves that this song doesn’t just pack a punch within the musical’s context—Adam Driver’s emotional rendition is one of the film’s high points. But we bow low for 2008 revival starring Raul Esparza, a show where the cast didn’t just sing and act, but played instruments throughout the performance.

The best line: “Somebody crowd me with love / Somebody force me to care / Somebody let come through / I’ll always be there / As frightened as you / To help us survive / Being alive”

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