ver a three-day period i Mark Eden Horowitz sat dov.. wnu Stephen Sondheim in his Turtle Bay home and explored Sondheim's creative process. Beginning with a discussion of his latest work, Passion, and working back in time to Pacific Overtures, this collection of inter- views details Sondheim's meticulous work as a composer. Among the topics discussed are Sondheim's approaches to dramatizing with music and lyrics; the creation and use of motifs and thematic material; the use of harmony, melody, and rhythm to reflect character; the structuring of a score; the use of pastiche; and the practical aspects of col- laboration. The conversations also include amusing anecdotes about his shows, Sondheim's musings on art and musical the- ater, reflections on the evolution of theater music, and thoughts on the influences of those who came before him.

In addition, the book includes Sondheim's list of "Songs I Wish I'd Written (At Least in Part)," his reasons behind some of those choices, and messages he received from composers and lyricists whose songs were included on the list. The work is comple- mented by a comprehensive listing of all of Sondheim's musical works the most com- plete discography of Sondheim recordings to date and publishing information for all his songs and scores, including vocal ranges.

Digitized by the Internet Archive in 2010


Sondheim on Music

Minor Details and Major Decisions

Mark Eden Horowitz


The Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Lanham, Maryland, and Oxford

In Association with

The Library of Congress



Published in the United States of America

by Scarecrow Press, Inc.

A Member of the Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group

4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706


PO Box 317



Copyright © 2003 by The Library of Congress

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

British Cataloging in Publication Information Available

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Horowitz, Mark Eden

Sondheim on music : minor details and major decisions / Mark Eden Horowitz.

p. cm. Includes discography (p. ) and index.

ISBN 0-8108-4437-0 (alk. paper)

1. Sondheim, Stephen Interviews. 2. Composers United States Interviews. 3. Musicals United States Analysis, appreciation. 4. Sondheim, Stephen Criticism and interpretation. I. Horowitz, Mark Eden. II. Title.

ML410.S6872 A5 2002

782.1 '4'092—dc21


© The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992. Manufactured in the United States of America.


Acknowledgments v

Introduction vii

Part I: The Interviews 1

1 Passion 3

2 Assassins 57

3 Into the Woods 81

4 Sunday in the Park with George 91

5 Interlude 119

6 Sweeney Todd 125

7 Pacific Overtures 155

8 Finale 165

Part II: Songs I Wish I'd Written (At Least in Part) 169

Part HI: Songlisting, Discography, and Publishing Information 179

Explanatory Notes 181

Songlisting, Discography and Publishing Information 187

Music Acknowledgments 389

Index 391

About the Author 401


There are many people to thank people without whom this book either would not have happened, would have been less than it is, or would have been less gratifying to work on. They include:

My wife, Loie Gardiner Clark, for her constant love and encouragement, her extraordinary skills as a grammarian and editor, and her gracious re- linquishment of the dining room table.

My parents, Judy and Terry Horowitz, for raising me with the arts, sup- porting me in my choices, loving me unconditionally, and exemplifying a good and meaningful life.

Steve Clar for his efficiency, hospitality, and insight.

Copyist, Chuck Gallagher, for his accuracy, ingenuity, and care.

My musician friends, who helped, explained, suggested, and understood: Rob Fisher, Jon Kalbfleisch, Michael Lavine, Bruce Pomahac, Larry Moore, Jeff Saver, and Russell Warner.

Many at the Library of Congress who in various ways made possible and supported this project: Abraham and Julienne Krasnoff, members of the James Madison Council, for the grant that made the initial interviews pos- sible; James W. Billington, Winston Tabb, Diane Nester Kresh, Jon New- som, Elizabeth H. Auman, and Vicky Risner for being far-sighted profes- sionals who genuinely care about the work the Library does and believe in the importance of projects like this one; Iris Newsom for being both a careful and caring editor; my colleagues and friends Raymond White and

vi Acknowledgments

Loras Schissel who generously shared their knowledge and expertise; and Samuel Brylawski, a friend who has been my mentor at the Library and a touchstone in my life.

I thank fundamentally Stephen Sondheim, for his work and the many ways it has informed and enriched my personal and professional life; and the precious gift of his time.


While Sondheim and James Lapine were creating Sunday in the Park with George, the two went to the Art Institute of Chicago and stood with three of the museum's curators before the miraculous canvas of Seurat's A Sun- day on La Grand Jatte. "What is that object up there?" they asked, pointing to an indistinct object in the middle distance. Instantly and simultane- ously the curators gave three different responses: a stove, a waffle iron, a . . . whatever. Sondheim and Lapine would eventually reimagine this comic incident in their musical's second act.

Similarly, such disagreements are common among musical scholars in deciphering composers' manuscripts. What does this piece of marginalia mean? How should that symbol be interpreted? How was that chord sup- posed to function? Rarely do we have the composer's direct commentary on how he approached his work and what his notes both musical and textual— literally mean. After Stephen Sondheim generously agreed to be- queath his manuscripts to the Library of Congress, a series of videotaped interviews with the composer was proposed with the intention of antici- pating the questions of future scholars. As such, and unlike the many, many interviews Sondheim has granted to date, these were never in- tended for publication but rather to serve as a complementary crib to the manuscripts. On that basis the project went forward with Sondheim's co- operation and the support of a grant from the Library of Congress.

What makes these interviews unique is their exclusive focus on Sond- heim's work as a composer. Even so, the interviews became far more wide-ranging than I had imagined, with Sondheim discussing not only the nitty-gritty of how to interpret his sketches and manuscripts, but how he goes about the process of writing and composing in short, his

viii Introduction

thoughts and observations about the art and craft of the musical. It was only after the interviews were completed and I began transcribing them that I realized they would be of interest and use to a broader audience; hence, this volume. Using clarity as my guide and goal, I edited the ver- batim transcripts eliminating verbal tics, false starts, and some repeti- tions; completing sentences where their endings seemed obvious; occa- sionally reordering clauses within a sentence and adjusting grammar accordingly. I am grateful for Sondheim's willingness and care in going through this edition to clarify his meaning even further.

After many months of planning, preliminary examination of Sondheim's manuscripts, and consultation with scholars, musicians, and some of Sond- heim's associates, the interviews were recorded over three days in October 1997 in Sondheim's Turtle Bay home with his manuscripts close to hand. These manuscripts include sketches, drafts, and fair copies for individual numbers, and general sketches for each show where he experiments with thematic material, accompaniment figures, and other musical ideas. We be- gan by looking at the manuscripts for Passion, at the time Sondheim's most recently completed score. Assuming there to be an evolution in his work as a composer, I wanted to make sure we captured where he was at that mo- ment as opposed to where he began. I also assumed the details of the later works would be freshest in Sondheim's mind, and that many of the ques- tions and answers would reflect backward on earlier shows.

As a result, we spent far more time on Passion than any other score, though this first long chapter includes many digressions about other shows. From there we worked backward through Assassins, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, and Pacific Overtures each show becoming a chapter here. Merrily We Roll Along was skipped because of limited time, but most of the questions raised by my examination of its manuscripts were effectively answered in the context of other shows. His earlier work, although often alluded to, was excluded by the constraints of tightly budgeted time and resources. However, the chapters "Interlude" and "Finale" cover a number of more general ques- tions that I felt were important to ask but that did not easily fit into our discussions of the specific shows.

The fact that we paused every half hour for the cameraman to reload tape cartridges might explain some seemingly odd breaks or disjointed moments. Also, this is the record of a freely flowing conversation; there- fore, it is not as structured as an entirely scholarly book would be. Early on I decided not to attempt to direct the conversation too much but to sim- ply enable one thing to lead to another. If Sondheim had something he wanted to say, I wanted to hear it.

Introduction ix

The following chapters tend to start with details about musical composi- tion and become more general as they continue. One of the benefits of this book over the videotapes is that it includes excerpts from the musical scores and sketches under discussion. Some of you picking up this book might be discouraged by the fact that it begins talking about music on a fairly technical level. Be reassured that there is much that follows that re- quires no musical expertise at all. And to those pleased by the initial fo- cus, it too reappears throughout.

For those unfamiliar with "figured bass" or "classical" musical notation who wish to understand more clearly those examples and portions of the discussion that deal with it, let me offer a few explanatory notes. Roman numerals are used to represent the various chords corresponding with each tone of a scale I through VII. Thus, in the key of C, I is a chord based on C, II is a chord based on D, III is a chord based on E, et cetera. This allows progressions to be rooted in any key. While some composers who use this method differentiate the notation of major and minor by us- ing upper case Roman numerals for major chords and lower case for mi- nor, Sondheim does not. What he does do, which is more rare, is to pre- cede most Roman numeral chords with an upper case or lower case letter indicating on which key (or temporary "tonicization," as he puts it) the chord is based. Sondheim's "gH7" indicates a 7th chord based on the sec- ond step of a G-minor scale, or A-C-Ei>-G. Subscript numbers 6, 7, 9, 11, and 13 indicate the color or type of chord, whereas numbers that begin in the superscript indicate the inversion. Thus, in the key of C, a I6 indicates a C-major chord with a 6th: C-E-G-A. And a I6 indicates a C-major triad in 1st inversion: E-G-C. A \ is a triad in 2nd inversion, \ is a 7th chord in first inversion, \ is a 7th chord in 2nd inversion, and is a 7th chord in 3rd in- version. These numbers indicate the intervals between the top notes to the lowest note in descending order. Thus, an E-major 7th chord in second in- version reads down: Gl-E-Ot-B, B to Gt being a 6th, B to E being a 4th, and B to Dt being a third. All notes of a chord are not necessarily to be sounded, though that usually cannot be determined in the sketches.

As Sondheim states clearly in these interviews, he views himself as a very tonal composer. The notations in his sketches are basically a short- hand for spelling chords quickly during the compositional process and do not necessarily reflect how he thinks of the chords functioning. The sketches often include alternate harmonizations that he wishes to con- sider, either with alternatives written below or in parentheses.

Sondheim is a rare, if not unique, composer in the world of musical the- ater and song writing. He creates a discrete musical language and vocab- ulary for every one of his musicals. He invests enormous intellect and ef- fort into each melody, harmony, and rhythm; each spelling of a chord; the accompaniment figures and in which registers they are placed; and every

x Introduction

dynamic. He plans how extended numbers will develop and evolve so that they hold together and are satisfying without becoming relentless or boring. As his own lyricist and as a dramatist who collaborates with li- brettists and directors, he writes music that is true to his characters and their situations. He is impeccable in his prosody, matching music and lyric in intent, inflection, and stress. Yet as individual as each score is, the unmistakable Sondheim voice sings through even his cleverest pastiches.

One of the pleasant surprises of these interviews was Sondheim's re- flections on the work of some of the musical theater composers who came before him. No other composer has been more fortunate in his personal connections to the tradition. Sondheim's mentor was Oscar Hammerstein II, and his musical collaborators included Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, and Richard Rodgers. Dorothy Fields was a family friend, and we know he admired and communicated with talents as diverse as Bernard Herr- mann, Cole Porter, and Frank Loesser. Stepping back another generation, among Hammerstein's collaborators were Vincent Youmans, Rudolf Friml, Jerome Kern, and Sigmund Romberg his mentor, in turn, having been Otto Harbach. Sondheim is connected as directly as possible to the entire history of the musical in far fewer than "six degrees of separa- tion." That unbroken chain makes his insights and perceptions all the more valuable and rare.

During breaks in the interviews, Sondheim made two comments to me of which I am particularly proud. As these were not taped, I cannot swear to his exact words, but their sense resonates in my memory. First: "A lot of the questions you're asking, no one's ever asked me before." And later: "I'm saying things in these interviews I didn't know I thought, until you asked the question and I had to ask myself: What do I think about that?" I am grateful to Sondheim for the thought he put into these interviews and his permission to share them with you.



Chapter One


MH: I'd like to start with your sketches for the opening number of Passion, "Clara /Giorgio L" which in the published score is "Happiness (Part I)." You wrote "Big X" above this sketch and it reminded me of Gershwin writing "GT" for "good tune" on his sketches. Is there any similarity in meaning?





EV/Db You're so beautiful

f f f


Example 1.1

SS: No, that mark usually means that I want that idea to go with an ac- companiment. This is from a sheet of vocal ideas for Clara and Giorgio, and probably the "X" means that it corresponds with an "X" someplace else in an accompaniment figure, or a few bars of accompaniment. So that I know that I want this to go with that accompaniment figure as opposed to another. The "Big" means it's to be the big statement. Each of the lines is a separate vocal idea. I separate them, as one does, between staves, with little parallel lines. And I sketch in little words that come from the lyric sheet to remind myself that this theme is for that particular set of lyrics.

MH: If you're working on the same section, why would you have alter- nate sketches in different keys?

4 Chapter 1

SS: I probably have outlined a harmonic scheme someplace else. And sometimes I change because I realize that it's going out of a vocal register or that it's something that's awkward. For example, suddenly the melody will get too low, and yet if it's still within an octave-and-six or an-octave- and-five something that a singer can do I'll leave it in that key. But if the tessitura gets too low or too high I'll switch the keys around before I get the key that I'm working in locked in my head. So, if I'm writing something in E-flat, and I realize the melody's getting too low, before it gets too entrenched in an E-flatness in my head, I'll take it up to a G ma- jor and rewrite the accompaniment in G major (or sketch out the accom- paniment in G major) and then start the melodic flow going in G major.

MH: Once you've completed a song, and it's in a show, and the key has been changed to suit the performer, do you still think of it in the original key?

SS: Yes, if I'm asked to play it at the piano, I'll play it in the key I wrote it. Often, I will write in a key that I can sing. You'll notice in the manuscripts over the years the keys get lower. I used to be able to sing up to an E, even on a full stomach, and now I cannot get up above a C and my voice has darkened. I can sing lower now, but I'm essentially a bass-baritone. So, for demonstration purposes, I have to write in something that I can play and sing to play to producers, directors, collaborators, et cetera.

MH: Do you think of different keys as having different feelings?

SS: There are a number of things I feel about keys. Flat keys are easier to read and play in; I don't know why, but that's generally true you'll find most musicians will say that. I switch keys from song to song I try to, unless I'm deliberately making a large scheme of key relationships which I did in some of the longer pieces in Passion. If I'm just doing a score of songs, I will deliberately write in a key that I haven't written in for a while. I write partly at the piano and partly away from the piano. In the early days, particularly my first six or eight shows, I would write mostly at the piano, and my fingers would fall my muscle memory getting too habituated I found myself writing the same chords. I'm not very good at keyboard harmony. I never took keyboard harmony, I only took theo- retical harmony. That serves me well, because if I have to make a modu- lation from C to E-flat, I have to find my way, and in finding my way, it gets some kind of personal statement, some freshness, in it. It may not be the way that other people would do it, and sometimes its very clumsiness will become part of that. Somebody who's got keyboard harmony can just glibly (that's both good and bad) get from one to the other in sixty-four

Passion 5

different ways. But, if I want to get from C to E-flat, in the key of E-flat, and I write another song in E-flat and I want to get from C to E-flat, then my fingers are likely to go in the same places. So I deliberately will write it in E major. When I feel I'm getting stale I go into sharp keys because they're so foreign and scary.

MH: When you were writing these sketches for Passion, would you have been at the piano, or could you have been either at the piano or away?

SS: Generally I feel my way into an accompaniment figure at the piano. I know in this case (this is the opening of Passion) I wanted to use bugle calls throughout the show because it takes place mostly in a military post, and a bugle, as you know, is just the triad. So I wanted to start with that. Since it starts with Giorgio, who's an army man, in bed with his mistress, it also has to be a romantic piece a post-coital piece. In order to do that and not make it just sound military, I put in a dissonant accompaniment in the left hand, but I kept the bugle idea in the right hand. So you get this, which

Example 1.2

doesn't sound like a bugle exactly, but it becomes a major motif during the whole show. But I had to find with my fingers, as opposed to my head, the dissonant pattern in the accompaniment in the bass in the left hand. Once I found that, I could then proceed to write melodically about it and against it. What's very interesting here is I see it's in A-flat (it's deceptive because it sort of starts with an E-flat tonality, but it's in A-flat), so that once the

6 Chapter 1

accompaniment gets going I will then start working out the melodic idea. That's generally the pattern. Sometimes a song will start with a melodic idea; particularly the more pretentiously composed pieces start with an accompaniment.

MH: What do you mean by "pretentiously composed"?

SS: What I mean is ambitious. "Pretentious" has a pejorative flavor to it, though not in my head. What I mean is extended extended writing. Pas- sion is composed not so much of songs, but of arioso passages that some- times take song form. The opening is sort of a song form, but it's fairly ex- tended, and it's fairly loose. The idea of Passion, for those who don't know, is that nothing comes to a conclusion.

MH: Musically?

SS: Musically. Musically the idea is to make it one long rhapsody so the audience will never applaud. There are some perfect cadences in it, but not very many. The audience is never encouraged to think that something is over, because I didn't want the mood broken and the audience being made conscious it was in a theater.

MH: In retrospect do you wish you had?

SS: No, I'm glad. It's right for the piece. Applause would be entirely wrong for it. The piece is a rhapsody; a rhapsody is what it is. It's just wrong to break the flow with applause; it was always conceived as a long song.

MH: On this sketch, you have "penult, question mark. What did you mean?

and a natural above with the




1 it Jn\ O (l


,) " bo ,(") ,,

1 0— -

J J r



Example 1.3

SS: I'd want to do this at the piano, but this is the climax before the end that's what "penult." means and this is the harmony I wanted to reach. And I think, although this is written in five flats, I didn't know whether I

Passion 7

wanted an A-flat on top or an A-natural, because there's a B-double-flat in the bass. Obviously, I wanted a clash between what looks like a B-major triad over what looks like an A-major tonality in the bass.

MH: And things in parentheses indicate an alternate?

SS: Everything in parentheses indicates an alternate. For example, in this first chord, I didn't know whether I wanted the C-flat in or not, so I put two D-flats in as an alternate, which makes essentially the same sound, but makes it much more of an F-sharp minor chord. Because look at that it's a first inversion of an F-sharp minor chord if you read these notes from the top as C-sharp, F-sharp, C-sharp, A, C-sharp, A. And I suspect I found that . . . because obviously I didn't want it to end (that's why it says penultimate), I didn't want it to feel as if it really reached a cadence, but I suspect I settled for that. I'd have to compare this sketch with the final manuscript, but I suspect I did not settle for something quite so bare.

MH: If you were working on this away from the piano, would you then take it to the piano to make the decision?

SS: You got it exactly. Usually I'll check it at the piano and say, ugh, no, that's not what I meant. But most chordal stuff I work out at the piano. If I have a chord, and a chord, and a chord, and I want to work out some contrapuntal passage, I might work on the couch and then take it to the piano and check it. But if I'm looking for the chordal structures, I'll gen- erally do that with my fingers at the piano.

MH: What do the red arrows throughout your sketches mean?

SS: That means what I like. As you'll see, there are a lot of pages of ac- companiment figures, and after I've written down as many ideas as I can, and I feel as though I'm ready to give birth, I'll go back over it and decide what it is that I really want to remember and try to preserve. When some- thing is the basis of the piece, I don't need a red arrow for that, and it may be surrounded by variations on it. But where I had another idea, I wanted to be sure that I considered it.

MH: Do you mean another idea for the same moment?

SS: Well, for the same piece, though perhaps another place in it.

MH: After you've done all the sketching, is that when you play every- thing through and decide what to arrow?

8 Chapter 1

SS: Yes, when I think I've exhausted the possibilities at least for that mo- ment. I'll have a set of ideas, and I don't want to bore the listener. Then I will look through and see, because all of these are related to each other, ei- ther harmonically, or in terms of melodic outline, or in terms of rhythm. So it isn't like it's an idea for another song it comes out of the same net- work of ideas, but it does offer contrast and variety. The trick always well, in any art, I guess, but particularly in any art that takes place over a period of time is how to give it variety yet make it hold together. How do you prevent it from becoming an add-a-pearl necklace? At the same time you don't want to just repeat ideas. It's the whole business of long- line development.

MH: Has it become any easier?

SS: I recognize the dangers of boredom more now than I did at the begin- ning.

MH: With an audience?

SS: No, I can't judge. The reason a lot of people complain the music is difficult is because it does tend to change. It's something I picked up partly from Cole Porter and partly from Leonard Bernstein. One of the things about Lenny's music that I like is he keeps surprising you par- ticularly rhythmically. Just when you think something is going to be a 3/4 bar, it turns out to be a 4/4 bar, or when you think it's going to be a four-measure phrase, it turns out to be a three-measure phrase. So you rarely get a chance to get ahead of the music, and that keeps the music fresh because it's full of surprises. He used to say it's not his phrase, but he's the first person I heard it from that music should be inevitable but fresh. And when you listen to Jerome Kern, you know ex- actly what he meant. Anybody who studies a Cole Porter song is due for a lot of surprises, because what looks like a simple AABA form, turns out to really be A-A prime-B-A double prime he does not repeat the A section. It's almost repeated, but not quite. And the result is the ear is constantly freshened, and that's what keeps music alive over a period of time. People who like my music and say they discover new things in it the more they listen to it, it's because there are these little surprises scattered throughout. So that what is jolting on first hearing, on the second hearing you start to see more how it's part of the pat- tern— even if it's not a conscious process.

MH: But Porter wouldn't do it through the rhythmic changes that Lenny would?

Passion 9

SS: No, Porter did it melodically and harmonically. You look at "Just One of Those Things" and see the tiny variations, and yet, it's so close to the standard form that it could become popular. He's the great experimenter from that point of view. Kern is the great harmonic experimenter. With Porter, it's really in terms of melodic line and how he keeps spinning it out in little tiny variations and, of course, the harmonic sophistication. And Lenny has a lot of harmonic surprise, but primarily the thing that surprises you is rhythmic structures, I think.

MH: Did you ever talk to him about that, or do you just know?

SS: No, I just know.

MH: And you actually did write "long-line" in this example.

Example 1 .4

SS: Ah, well. These two chords represent the entire progression of this passage, so it's the spinning out of these two they're written as whole notes, but that means nothing. I write long-line stuff in either whole notes or half notes; a whole note could represent four bars, eight bars, twelve bars, sixteen bars. And the half note underneath means: say you have a C on the top there's the "C-ness" of it. (I'm beginning to sound like Lenny Oy.) There's the C-ness on top, but then there's a G and an F, which means that for the first couple of bars it will have G as a tonal center, next F as a tonal center. And to be able to visualize that is of great help when you're writing extended pieces as opposed to a song form, which, as I say, is either AABA or ABAB. I rarely use long-line stuff when I'm just writing a thirty-two-bar song, although there is an aspect of that. I know in "Too Many Mornings" I did that, but that's a longish song. Usually I don't bother, but if I'm writing extended pas- sages like this most of the stuff in Passion is extended then to hold it together, the glue has to be harmonic and has to be spinning out the triad and spinning out the harmony.

MH: But the reason you would actually write "long-line" there?

10 Chapter 1

SS: Is to remind myself where I'm going. One of the things I loved when I went to the Library of Congress and saw the Gershwin sketch for the trio at the end of Porgy and Bess was he knew where he was going. He would just put little thumbtacks all along the way to remind himself: Okay, I gotta reach the C-major chord over here. And he's spinning out the melodic line and then he thinks: I'll fill in the harmony later, I won't worry about how I get from here to here, I just want to be sure that I get there. That's, in a sense, what these are these are bedposts. Oscar Hammer- stein used to talk about "thumbtacks" in terms of lyric writing laying out the carpet, and then putting in the other tacks along here: Here's point A, here's point B, here's point C. You can see it in his lyrics, they develop like little plays because of that. It's not just repetition, there's develop- ment. He gets from point A to B to C. I'm not talking about it in terms of dramatic action, I'm talking about it in terms of idea. I thought: Well why not do that musically too? And then when I studied with Milton Babbitt, I found out there's a nice tradition dating back at least to Mozart that spins things out that way.

MH: When you start "spinning out the melody," do you ever get to a point where you realize, because of what the melody's done, that you want to go back and change a "thumbtack"?

SS: Usually what happens is that I've worked on it so much that the uncon- scious takes over, and I arrive where I want to arrive. I'm sure there are times when, of course, I bend it. I'm not rigid about it, and I realize that the melody itself will imply something. But since I'm somebody who believes that the heart of music is harmony, as opposed to melody, it's very important for me to have the sense of where the harmonies are going. And the harmonies im- ply the melody. And quite often the long-line will turn out to be of melodic value. I'm sure at a certain point I took this opening business and the lower voice, and used that, because what's implied here is you have here an E-flat tonality in the left hand and a C-major tonality in the right hand. I'm sure I used that juxtaposition throughout. Even if it's not C major and E-flat, but that relationship. And the E-flat isn't entirely resolved because it's got an un- resolved fourth in it. So again, it will hold the piece together.

MH: What also interested me in this sketch, is that it looks like you di- vided what was originally one measure into two measures 15A and 15B. How do you decide the amount of breath or time that a moment needs? Is it for the actor?

SS: I have an instinct, and it may not be accurate, but it's true, that when Lapine heard this he said to me: I would like to have a little more time





15B) (16)

n j j j




What would you do if I












Example 1.5

there. Not necessarily for staging, but emotional time, because this looks to me like it was squeezed in later. However, it may be that I just decided that I didn't want to get to what would have been bar 16 so quickly. It just may be that. There's this whole thing: I wanted so much to get that post- coital sense of relaxation, and that means that there should be pauses. Everybody has a different way of dealing with that moment, but in this case, I wanted Clara to be both a little coy with him and at the same time she's relaxing the balloon is deflating. And that meant that I put in little passages of rest that ordinarily I wouldn't do. If this was just a ballad I would try to keep it going, but being a post-sex ballad, I wanted to have places where she would just breathe. I do know there was some place in this opening number where Lapine asked for more time, but it's probably later on. This is only the sixteenth bar, and the music starts with an or- gasm. She's only been singing four bars here, and I just didn't want it to go on so quickly. That's why that extra measure's there. And I think what happened was I played it over and I thought: No, no, she needs more breathing space here.

MH: There's so much thought behind your choices, do you ever wonder how the performances of actors in future productions might be affected by not having information about the intentions that were behind these de- cisions?

SS: I wish they would be. I had a nice experience with Alun Armstrong. He played Sweeney in the Declan Donnelan production we were doing of Sweeney Todd at the National Theater in London. I was rehearsing Alun and the quintet in the letter-writing scene in the second act. I worked out with him when he dipped the pen in the inkwell, and when he wrote and

12 Chapter 1

when he signed, when he grunted and when he giggled all that to go with the quintet singing because I work out everything in detail. He's an aggressive fellow, and he actually turned and he said: "You mean you thought these things out when you were writing this down?" He thought that that kind of stuff when you dip a quill pen is worked out during rehearsal. I said: "Yes, of course, every single dip." Now the director may change it, but I know exactly when I want him to dip the pen in and when I want him to cross out a word and repeat a word. There are moments during "The Letter" where he writes a word, and then he thinks, and he kind of slavers over the word because he likes it so much because it's go- ing to draw the judge into his trap. That's all worked out. I don't know what a director who doesn't know this will tell an actor when he asks: "Why does he repeat that word?" I know why he repeats it.

MH: Do you write it down anywhere?

SS: There's no way to do that. Though, actually, I do write stage directions down. I think probably on that one I wrote something like "He muses." So the answer is: Yes, I work out all these things in detail. It's a knee-jerk reaction from an experience I had with Jerome Robbins when we were writing West Side Story and I played him "Maria." Lenny was off some- place, and I was the one who played it for him. And he asked me: "Well, what do you see happening on the stage?" I said: "Well, Tony is singing this love song. . . ." Jerry said: "Well, what's he doing?" I said: "He's singing . . . he's full of emotion." He said: "You stage it!" We started talk- ing, and I learned then that it is of great value to a director to stage every song you write within an inch of its life. They can use it as a blueprint, or depart from it entirely, but they have something to go from. So I stage everything. And I tell my collaborating director what I intend, but he doesn't have to, and often won't, pay any attention to it. I worked out the whole opening to the second act of Sweeney the beer garden scene, "God That's Good" where Mrs. Lovett is serving twenty-seven people at once. I worked out what each customer was doing the one that was under- paying, the one that was drunk, the one that was a glutton, et cetera and I had them at different tables. And Hal Prince said: "I think it would be much better if they were all at one table." So Hal completely changed my basic scheme, but the details are still there for him to tell the actors. I had the guy who's sneaking away with trying not to pay at that table while Mrs. Lovett' s back is turned over here, and I had him trying to sneak out and Tobias catches him. Hal had them all at one table, so he had to work out how someone could try to sneak out because at a big table every- body sees everybody it's not so easy to work out. But he wanted a big table because he wanted that sense of Dickensian stomping. When it was



done in a revival at the Circle in the Square, there were different little ta- bles, and that was the way I intended it. Hal's production had much more of a kind of vigor, but that production had much more detail in it.

MH: Did you have to change the score because of it? Did Hal need more or less time because of the changed staging?

SS: No. That sometimes does happen in revivals. That happened just re- cently for the concert of Into the Woods. Somebody said: "Could I get some more bars here?" And I said: "Absolutely." We needed more time to get people onto the stage so I allowed extra vamps.

MH: In some of your sketches and drafts for "Happiness (Part II)," you have it opening with the word "Christ" instead of "God." What was be- hind your decision to change it from one to the other?


God | I I

7 jhJTT]


Example 1.6

SS: I love the word "Christ." I love the sound of it. It seems to be more agonizing. "God, you are so beautiful" has a kind of sentimental feel- ing to it. "Christ, you are so beautiful" has a sense of shock. "Christ" is a shocking word. I prefer "Christ" and my guess is that Lapine per- suaded me to change it, not to make him a villain or anything like that. It also has to do of course with the fact that "God" can be extended as a note, and "Christ" cannot. You can't go "Chr-i-i-ist"; it loses all its value. But you can go "G-aaahd." You can sing a love song with that single word. So I can't tell you definitely what the reason was, it may have been Lapine, or I may have heard this sung and I thought: It's a little too shocking. To say "God" on the stage forty years ago was a shock. Now it's not such a shock. To say "Christ" still is a shock. It

14 Chapter 1

really is, to quote, taking the Lord's name in vain. I'm not just talking about to the Christians in the audience, it just has that feeling it' a real [loud clap].

MH: Would the fact that Passion takes place in Italy a Catholic country have anything to do with your choice?

SS: I didn't even think of that. Of course James and I talked a lot about that, so it's conceivable that character wouldn't have said "God." I don't know what the Italian word would be that would be an equivalent. When you say "God, it's hot outside," you're not really swearing. But if you say "Christ, it's hot outside," that's got real force. I just wanted one of those expletives that isn't an expletive.

MH: Would you elaborate on the erasures in your sketches?

SS: When I start writing a piece out in detail making real copy and then I turn against it, or I decide to change something, but it's not worth erasing most of a page, I'll rewrite the bars I want to keep on a fresh page. Then on the original I'll lightly erase the page and bar numbers, but not so thoroughly that I can't see them. Then I know that this was a discarded page, and I don't end up with two page twos with