Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber: The New Musical

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The New York Times called Stephen Sondheim "the greatest and perhaps best known artist in the American musical theater," while two months earlier, the same paper referred to his contemporary, Andrew Lloyd-Webber as "the most commercially successful composer in history." Whatever their individual achievements might be, it is agreed by most critics that these two colossi have dominated world musical theater for the last quarter century and hold the key to the direction the musical stage will take in the future.
Here in the third volume of Stephen Citron's distinguished series The Great Songwriters—in depth studies that illuminated the musical contributions, careers, and lives of Noel Coward and Cole Porter (Noel & Cole: The Sophisticates), and Oscar Hammerstein 2nd and Alan Jay Lerner, (The Wordsmiths)—this eminent musicologist has taken on our two leading contemporary contributors to the lyric stage. His aim has not been to compare or judge one's merits over the other, but to make the reader discover through their works and those of their contemporaries, the changes and path of that glorious artform we call Musical Theater.
In his quest, Citron offers unique insight into each artist's working methods, analyzing their scores—including their early works and works-in-progress. As in Citron's previously critically acclaimed books in this series, great significance is given to the impact their youthful training and private lives have had upon their amazing creative output. Beginning with Sondheim's lyrics-only works, West Side Story, Gypsy, Do I Hear A Waltz? through his scores for Saturday Night, Company, Anyone Can Whistle, Follies, Pacific Overtures, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday In the Park, Into the Woods, Assassins, and Passion, all these milestones of musical theater have been explored. Lloyd-Webber's musical contribution from his early works, The Likes of Us and Joseph to Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, By Jeeves, The Phantom of the Opera, Song & Dance, Mass, Sunset Boulevard to Whistle Down the Wind are also thoroughly analyzed.
The works of these two splendid artists are clarified for the casual or professional reader in context with their contemporaries. Complete with a quadruple chronology (Sondheim, Lloyd-Webber, US Theater, British Theater), copious quotations from their works, and many never before published illustrations, the future of the artform that is the crowning achievement of the 20th century is made eminently clear in this book. Sondheim & Lloyd-Webber is a must-read for anyone interested in the contemporary theater.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Well worth reading. He supplies a great deal of fascinating biographical information; his musical analyses are blessedly easy to follow; he quotes extensively from critics, and points out positive qualities in both composers which have often been overlooked."—Times Literary Supplement

"A well-written, engaging account—simultaneously successful as critical history and biographical study—by an author obviously in love with his subject."—American Theater

Acclaim for the first two volumes of
Stephen Citron's distinguished series The Great Songwriters

Noel and Cole
The Sophisticates

"A must for the theater buff."
—Performance Magazine

"A courageous and highly successful chronicle of two great legends of the theater, music, and film worlds during the first half of the 20th century."
—Library Journal

"For would-be songwriters, the book seems priceless. For the rest of us, it is well worth reading."
—New York Newsday

The Wordsmiths
Oscar Hammerstein 2nd and Alan Jay Lerner

"Highly entertaining and admirably comprehensive."
—The Chicago Tribune

"Told with loving detail by that musical sleuth Stephen Citron, this is a great book about two great men."
—Don Black, lyricist of Sunset Boulevard and Song and Dance

"His book time-travels the reader into the world and words of two masters creating for a musical theater whose moment will not be seen again."
—Dory Previn

Publishers Weekly
Third in Stephen Citron's Great Songwriters series, Sondheim & Lloyd-Webber: The New Musical (preceded by Noel & Cole and The Wordsmiths) demonstrates how musical theater "has done a total about-face" since its inception. Just compare classics like Anything Goes, Oliver! or Guys and Dolls to Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Tommy, Rent and The Full Monty, says musicologist, composer and lyricist Citron, to notice the glaring differences between shows made between the 1920s and '60s ("It was a time when plot was secondary") and those made since that time, which have "gone in several directions" including the "oversize theatricality" of Lloyd-Webber and the "intellectual stimulation" of Sondheim. Tracing the two lives from childhood through early careers (initially, Sondheim was solely a lyricist, Lloyd-Webber solely a composer) to the present (the phenomenal, longstanding success of Cats; Sondheim's receipt of the Kennedy Center Honors Medal from then-President Clinton), Citron trains telescopic and microscopic lenses on the two most important living musical theater luminaries. B&w photos. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In his latest entry of "The Great Songwriters" series (after The Wordsmiths, LJ 6/1/95), Citron profiles Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, two of the late 20th century's most prominent composers for the Broadway and London stages, who, interestingly, share a birthday (March 22). In alternating chapters, the author traces their creative development from tentative neophytes to much-feted giants, integrating the various directions that musical theater has taken. Citron analyzes their productions from both musical and dramatic perspectives, providing relevant excerpts from contemporary reviews and documents. Without sensationalism, he highlights aspects of their personal lives: Sondheim's being the only child in a dysfunctional family and his reticence about his own relationships; Lloyd-Webber's interactions with his composer-father and cellist-brother as well as his three marriages and control issues. The result is a coherent, enjoyable narrative. Recommended for all libraries. (Index not seen.) Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195096019
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2001
  • Series: Great Songwriters Series
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Citron is a composer, lyricist, and lecturer. He is the author of Songwriting, the standard reference work on the subject, The Musical From the Inside Out, Noel & Cole, and The Wordsmiths. He lives in New York City.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2002

    Unscholarly and Condescending

    Citron's research methods here leave much to be desired, as there are way too many factual errors. The first, and most laughable, is the hypenation of Lloyd Webber's last name throughout the book. Even a new scholar/biographer would at least spell his subject's last name correctly. Also there are many condescending remarks by the author, about musical theatre in general and these composers, that destroy any objectivity and therefore his credibility. Some of his remarks are even backhanded--saying that Sondheim and Lloyd Webber only won Tonys due to lack of credible competition on Broadway. What about the years that they have lost Tonys to others? Save your money.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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