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Student Blog: My Favorite Sondheim Show


Remembering a Legendary Composer

Student Blog: My Favorite Sondheim Show

In the early evening of Friday, November 26, legendary musical theater composer Stephen Sondheim died. I was at home getting ready to go out to dinner and see a Broadway show with a friend when I heard the news. I was staying with my godmother for the holidays and she's the one who told me he just died after getting a news notification on her phone. My heart sank and so did hers as we are both huge theater people (she works for Broadway) and we comforted each other while crying. After the show I saw was over, it was such a nice surprise to have one of the actors honor Sondheim with a few kind words and a moment of silence, something that was done all over Broadway that night and a moment I'll never forget. It has been a few days now and I wanted to reflect on my favorite show written by Stephen Sondheim.

In 2008 when I was seven years old, on one of our family trips to Paris, my parents took me and my sister to a park for an outdoor free movie showing of West Side Story. I knew nothing of the show or movie so I didn't know what to expect. I sat through the whole movie with no complaints which showed to my parents that I liked it. I was captured by everything, the music, the amazing dance numbers, the great singing... Towards the end, it started raining but my parents made us stay until the final credits and I'm very glad for that because it was the first Golden Age musical and first musical by Stephen Sondheim that I saw without knowing he worked on it.

My next encounter with West Side Story was when my parents took me and my sister to see the Broadway revival in 2009 when I was eight years old. I don't remember much of that day. What I do remember is that I compared certain moments to the movie like how the number "America" was performed by men and women in the movie and only by women on stage, I was once again in awe of the whole show and I liked the inclusion of Spanish that I was able to understand since I am Mexican-American and know fluent Spanish.

Since those two moments in my life, I have rediscovered West Side Story in my late teens and my love for the musical grew more and more. I watched the movie many more times which is now my favorite movie musical. I've seen the most recent Broadway revival in 2019 which I thought was an interesting adaptation. I have recently seen recordings of other stage productions for college assignments and I learned more about the show and everyone that created it like Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Even though the story is tough, the dancing, acting, songs, music and themes are all amazing. I listen to the movie soundtrack and revival cast album all the time so I constantly have those songs stuck in my head. I can't believe Sondheim was only twenty seven when he wrote these great lyrics that have been sung since and are still quoted today. He was a genius lyricist early on in his life and didn't even know it at the time.

West Side Story is a very special musical for me, not only because of the music and dance, but also because of the theme of Latin American immigrants. Some of my family members are similar to the characters in the show since they immigrated to New York City from Mexico. It is so great watching this musical and hearing my mom's native language, Spanish, being spoken and sung and seeing people onstage who look like me. It makes me happy and proud to be Latin American and shows to our community that we can do anything and be whoever we want to be.

Now that Sondheim is gone, I am very grateful for his big contribution to musical theater and Broadway, especially to one of my favorite musicals. I will continue to honor him by listening to the West Side Story cast album more and more like I did on the day he passed and I will remember him fondly as the historical figure he now is.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Elisa Kluger